Earnest Soul Searchings on the Cost of Being a Fisherman: “The Art of Man- Fishing.” Part 7.

Taken and adapted from, A Soliloquy on The Art of Man-Fishing
Written by Thomas Boston, 1699
Edited for thought and sense.


How can you believe, that receive honor one of another, –and seek not the honor that comes from God only? A grain of faith will cure this lightness of the head and heart.

Consider, 0 my soul, your own vileness? What are you but a poor lump of clay, as to your body, that will soon return to the dust, and be a sweet morsel for the worms that now you tramples upon! Hast you not seen how loathsome the body is many times in life, by filthy boils and other noisome diseases, and after death what an ugly aspect it has? Forget not the sight that you saw once in the churchyard of Dunse, how a body, perhaps sometime beautiful, was like thin mortar, but much more vile and abominable.

The time will come that you will be such yourself. But what are you as to your heart, but a vile, base, and ugly thing, so many filthy idols to be found there, like a swarm of the worst of vermin? Are you not as a cage full of unclean birds! What do you think of yourself. What unbelief saw you there, what baseness of every kind? And what day goes over you, but you see still something in you to humble you? And what are you that God has employed in this work? Those that were sometime your fellows are mean and despised; and will you for all this seek your own glory? Woe unto you if you do so.

Consider, That “Him that honors God, God will honor; but he that despises him, shall be lightly esteemed.” Have respect, O my soul, with Moses, to the recompense of reward, and beware of preferring your own to the interest of Christ, lest you be classed among those that seek their own, and not the things of Christ.

Consider also what Christ has done for you. Forget not his goodness, his undeserved goodness to such a base wretch as you are. Let love to him predominate in you, and you shall then be helped to sacrifice all to his glory.

Christ had the good of men’s souls in his eye. He came to seek and save that which was lost; he came to seek the lost sheep of the house of Israel. So he sent out the apostle to open the eyes of the blind, to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God. Follow Christ in this, O my soul, that you mayst be a fisher of men. When you study your sermons, let the good of souls be before you; when you preach let this be your design, to endeavor to recover lost sheep, to get some brands plucked out of the burning; to get some converted, and brought in to your Master. Let that be much in your mind, and be concerned for that, whatever doctrine you preach. Consider, O my soul, for this effect, What the design of the gospel is. What is it but this? This is the finis operis; and if it be not the finis operandis, it is very lamentable. It is the everlasting gospel that Christ has made manifest, declaring the will of God concerning the salvation of man.

Consider wherefore God did send you out. Was it to win a livelihood to yourself? Woe to them that count gain godliness; that will make the gospel merely subservient to their temporal wants. Rather would I perish for want than win bread that way. Well then, was it not to get you mighty labor to gain souls to Christ? Yea, it was. Have a care then that you be not like some that go to a place, being sent thither by their master, but forget their errand, when they come there, and trifle away their time in vanity and fooleries.

Consider the worth of souls. If you remember that, you can not but have an eye to their good. The soul is a precious thing: which appears if you consider,

(1.) Its noble endowments adorned with understanding, capable to know the highest object; will to choose the same; affections to pursue after it, to love God, hate sin, in a word, to glorify God here, and to enjoy him here and hereafter.
(2.) It must live or die for ever. It shall either enjoy God through all the ages of eternity, or remain in endless torments for evermore.
(3.) No worldly gain can counterbalance the loss of it. “What shall it profit a man, if he should gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”
(4.) It cost Christ his precious blood ere it could be redeemed. It behoved him to bear the Father’s wrath, that the elect should have borne through all eternity; and no less would redeem it. So that the redemption of the soul is indeed precious.
(5.) Christ courts the soul. He stands at the door, and knocks, to get in. The devil courts it with his baits and allurements. And will you, O my soul, be unconcerned for the good of that which is so much courted by Christ and the devil both? Be ashamed to stand as an unconcerned spectator, lest you show yourself none of the Bridegroom’s friends.

Consider the hazard that souls are in. Oh! alas, the most part are going on in the high way to destruction, and that blind-folded. Endeavor then to draw off the veil. They are as brands in the fire: will you then be so cruel as not to be concerned to pluck them out? If so, you shall burn with them, world without end, in the fire of God’s vengeance, and the furnace of his wrath, that shall be seven times more hot for unconcerned preachers than others.

Consider what a sad case you yourself was in, when Christ concerned himself for your good. You were going on in the way to hell as blind as a mole; at last Christ opened thine eyes, and let you see your hazard, by a preacher (worthy Mr. H. Erskine) that was none of the unconcerned Gallios, who spared neither his body, his credit, nor reputation, to gain you, and the like of you. And will you preach unconcerned for others? I should abhor myself as the vilest monster, in so doing. Lord, my soul rises at it when I think on it. My soul hates, and loathes that way of preaching: but without you, I can do nothing. Lord, rather strike me dumb, than suffer me to preach unconcerned for the good of souls; for if dumb, I should murder neither my own soul, nor those of others.

Consider that unconcernedness for the good of souls in preaching, argues,

(1.) A dead lifeless heart, a loveless soul, with respect to Christ. If you have any life or love to Christ, dare you be unconcerned in this matter? Nay, sure, he that has life will move; and he that hath love, will be concerned for the propagating of Christ’s kingdom.
(2.) Unbelief of the threatenings of 
God especially. For if you believe that the wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God, you can not preach to them as if you were telling a tale. If you believe that they must depart into everlasting fire, your heart will not be so frozen as to be unconcerned for them. The sight of it by faith will thaw your frozen heart.
(3.) A stupid heart, and so a hateful frame. Who would not abhor a watchman that saw the enemy coming on, if he should bid them only in the general provide to resist their enemies, or should tell them that the enemy were coming on, so unconcernedly as they might see he cared not whether they should live or perish? And what a hateful stupidity is it in a preacher of the gospel to be unconcerned for souls, when they are in such hazard ?

The devil shames such preachers.

He goes about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour; and they, set to keep souls, creep about like a snail. He is in earnest when he tempts; but such are unconcerned whether people hear, or forbear to hear their invitations, reproofs, etc. Yea, how concerned are the devil’s ministers that agent his business for him ? They will compass sea and land to gain one proselyte. And shall the preachers of the gospel be unconcerned?

If it be so that you be unconcerned for the good of souls, it seems you came not in by the door, but have broken over the wall, and are but a thief and a robber, John 10:1, compared with verse 12, “He that is a hireling, sees the wolf coming, flees, and leaves the sheep, and the wolf catches them.” Verse 15, “The hireling flees, because he is a hireling, and cares not for the sheep.” O my soul, if at any time you find your heart unconcerned in not having the good of souls before you, remember this.

Lastly, you can not expect God’s help, if you forget your errand. Have you not known and experienced, that these two, God’s help in preaching, and a concernedness for the good of souls, have gone with you pari passu?

O my soul, then endeavor to be much in following of Christ this way, setting the good of souls before thine eyes; and if you do so, you mayst be a fisher of men, though you know it not.

Solemn Reflections on the Honor of the Master Fisherman: “The Art of Man- Fishing.” Part 6.

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.


Learning From the Master Fisherman: “The Art of Man- Fishing.” Part 5.

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.

The Path of the Fisherman: “The Art of Man- Fishing.” Part 4.

Taken and adapted from, A Soliloquy on The Art of Man- Fishing
Written by Thomas Boston, 1699
Edited for thought and sense.


O my soul, the way for me to be a fisher of men, is to follow Christ.

What it is to follow thee, O Lord, shew me; and Lord, help me to do it. Here two things are to be considered.

I. What following Christ supposes and implies.
II. Wherein Christ is to be followed.

I. What following Christ supposes and implies.

 Firsts. It presupposes life. A dead man cannot follow any person; a dead preacher cannot follow Christ; there must be a principle of life, spiritual life in him, or else he is nothing. Therefore have I said and maintained, that a man cannot be a minister inforo Dei, though he may inforo ecclesice, without grace in his heart. This is a spiritual following of Christ; and therefore presupposes a spiritual and heavenly principle. Tell me then, O my soul, what state art thou in? Thou was once dead, that is sure, Eph. 2: 1, dead in trespasses and sins. Art thou raised out of thy grave? Have you got a part in the first resurrection? Has Christ breathed on thy dead and dry bones? Or art thou yet void of spiritual life? Are thou rotting way in thine iniquity? What do you say thou to this? If thou be yet dead, thy case is lamentable; but if thou be alive, what signs of life are there to be seen in thee? I have my own doubts of this, because of the prevailing of corruption: therefore I will see what I can say to this.

  1. A man that hath the Spirit hath life, Rom. 8: 2, 9; but I think I have the Spirit: ergo, I have life. That I have the Spirit, I conclude from these grounds following.
    1. I have light that at sometime I had not. See John 14: 26, “The Comforter” shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance whatsoever I have said unto you.” I see now otherwise than sometimes I saw. Once was I blind, but now I see, though I see but men as trees. Once was I darkness, but now am I light (though weak) in the Lord. This light makes me see,
      1. My former darkness, is the sad and miserable state that once I was in,  ignorant of God, Christ, and religion, save going to the church, and keeping from banning and swearing, etc., which I was restrained from, from a child. This makes me see my present darkness, 1 Cor. 13:12. How little a portion do I know of thee, O God? My knowledge is but as the twilight.
      2. It lets me see my heart-sins, my imperfections and shortcomings in the best of my duties; so that God might damn me for them. The hypocrites say, “Why have we fasted, and thou seest not?” etc., Isa. 58: 3. It lets me see the wandering of my heart in duty and out of duty, yea, the sinfulness of the first risings of lust in mine heart, Rom. 7, and is still discovering the baseness of my heart unto me, so that I am forced to think and say, that at the best I am unclean, unclean.
      3. It makes me to see Christ as precious (1 Pet. 2: 7), altogether lovely, the chief among ten thousand, preferable to all the world; for whom, if my heart deceive me not (Lord, thou knowest), I would undergo the loss of that which I most esteem in the world. “Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is none on earth that I desire besides thee.” For indeed, “My heart and flesh faints and fails; but thou art the strength of my heart; O Lord, –Psalm 73: 25, 26.
      4. It lets me see my need of him; so that nothing else but Christ, I am persuaded, can help me. When I have done what I can, I am but an unprofitable servant. If I should do a thousand times more than I do, I count all but loss and dung or the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ my Lord. My soul cries out for thee, O God, and follows hard after thee.
      5. The knowledge that I have of Christ, makes me trust in him in some measure, Psalm 9:10; though alas! My evil heart of unbelief creates a great deal of difficulty in that to me. I find him a present help in the time of trouble; therefore I endeavor to cast my burden upon him. I know him to be a good Master, and therefore I lean on him for help for his own work. I know his grace is sufficient for me; therefore, in temptation and trials, I endeavor to lift up my soul to him.
    2. I feel help in duty from the Spirit. I know not what I should pray for; but the Spirit helps my infirmities, Rom. 8: 26. Many times I have gone to prayer very dead, and have come away with life; I have gone with a drooping and fainting heart, and come away rejoicing; with a heart closed, and have come away with a heart enlarged, and have felt enlargement both as to words and affections; and this hath made me both thankful and more vile in mine own eyes, that God should have done so with the like of me, 1 Chron. 29: 14.
  2. He that hath sense and feeling hath life; but I have sense and feeling; ergo, I have life, Eph. 4: 19. My sins are a burden to me (Matthew 11: 28), Lord, thou knows my omissions and commissions, the sins of my thoughts and of my life, the sins of my youth, etc., and above all, that which is my daily trouble, is an evil, backsliding, and base heart, which I find deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, Jer. 17: 9. This body of sin and death makes me to groan, and long to be rid of it, Rom7: 24. And what a load it was to me this day, God knows. I feel God’s presence, which makes me to rejoice sometimes; at other times again I feel his absence. Thou, O Lord, hides thy face, and I am troubled, Psalm 30: 7. His smiles are sweet as honey from the comb, and his frowns are bitter as death to my soul.
  3. He in whom there is heat hath life; but I have a heat in my soul; ergo, I have life. I find a threefold flame, though weak, in my heart.
    1. A flame of love to Christ, Rom. 5: 5. My soul loves him above all; and I have felt my love to Christ more vigorous within this short while, than for a considerable time before. Lord, put fuel to this flame. I have a love to his truths that I know, what God reveals to me of his word, Psalm 119: 19. I find sometimes his word sweeter to me than honey from the comb, Psalm 19: 10. It comforts and supports me. I cannot but love it; it stirs me up, and quickens my soul when dead. I love his commands, though striking against my corruptions, Rom. 7:22. I love the promises, as sweet cordials to a fainting soul, as life from the dead to one trodden under foot by the apprehensions of wrath, or the prevailing of corruption. I love his threatening as most just; my soul heartily approves them. If any man love not the Lord Jesus, let him be anathema, maranatha. The least part of truth, that God makes known to me, I love; and, by grace, would endeavor to adhere to. I love those in whom the image of God does appear; though otherwise mean and contemptible, my heart warms towards them, 1 John 3: 14. I love his work, and am glad when it thrives (Romans 1: 8), though alas! There is little ground for such gladness now. I love his ordinances (Psalm. 84: 1) and what bears his stamp ; though all this be but weak, I love his glory, that he should be glorified, come of me what will.
    2.  I find in my heart a flame of desires, Matthew 6: 6.
      1. After the righteousness of Christ. My soul earnestly desires to be stripped naked of my own righteousness, which is as rags, and to be clothed and adorned with the robe of his righteousness. This wedding garment my soul affects; so shall I be found without spot, when the Master of the feast comes in to see the guests. My soul is satisfied, and acquiesces in justification by an imputed righteousness, though, alas! My base heart would fain have a home-spun garment of its own sometimes.
      2. After communion with him, Psalm 42: 1. When I want it, my soul though sometimes careless, yet, at other times, cries out, O that I knew where I might find him! I have found much sweetness, in communion with God, especially at the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, in prayer and meditation, hearing the word, faithfully and seriously preached, and in preaching it myself, when the candle of the Lord shines on my tabernacle; then was it a sweet exercise to my soul. I endeavor to keep it up when I have it, by watching over my heart, and sending up ejaculations to God. When I want it, I cry to him for it, though, alas! I have been a long time very careless. Sometimes my soul longs for the day, when my minority shall be over-past, and I be entered heir to the inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away ; to be quit of this evil world ; to be dissolved, and to be with Christ, which is best of all ; especially at three times,
        1. When I get more than ordinarily near God, when my soul is satisfied as with marrow and fat, when my heart is ennobled, and tramples on the world.
        2. When I am wrestling and groaning under the body of sin and death, the evil heart: then pleased would I be there, where Satan cannot tempt, and sin cannot enter; yea, when I have been much forsaken, at least as to comfort, Diary, Aug. 2, 1696, where is the most eminent instance of it.
        3. When I preach, and see that the gospel hath not success, but people are unconcerned, and go on in their abominations.
      3. I find in my heart some heat of zeal for God, which vents itself,
        1. By endeavoring to be active for God in my station. So when I was endeavoring to do something for God, though, alas! It did some of them no good. Before I entered on trials, one main motive was to have opportunity to give a testimony against sin, and to see if I could be an instrument to reclaim any soul from their wicked way. This I have, as the Lord enabled me, done, since I was a preacher, testifying against sin freely and plainly, and as earnestly as I could, by grace assisting me, though in weakness. And, Lord, thou knowest that my great desire is to catch men, and to get for that end my whole furniture from thee, laying aside my own wisdom. And if I could do this, how satisfying would it be to my soul, that desires to do good to others, though I myself should perish? Therefore do I not spare this weak body, and therefore have I desired never to be idle, but to go unsent for sometimes. Yet my conscience tells me of much slackness in this point, when I have been in private with people, and have not reproved them as I ought, when they offended, being much plagued with want of freedom in private converse. This I have in the Lord’s strength resolved against, and have somewhat now amended it.
        2. It vents itself in indignation against sin in myself and others. Many times have I thought on that of the apostle, Yea, what revenge! When I have been overcome by a temptation, being content as it were to be revenged on myself, and as it were content to subscribe a sentence of damnation against myself, and so to justify the Lord in his just proceedings against me. And, Lord, do not I hate those that hate thee I am I not grieved with those that rise up against thee? The reproaches cast on thee, have fallen on me, Psalm. 59: 9. And my heart rises and is grieved, when I see transgressors, that they keep not thy law.
        3. It vents itself in grieving for those things that I cannot help. Lord, thou knowest how weighty the sins of this land have been unto me, how they have laid and do lie somewhat heavy on me ; and at this time in particular, the laxness of many in joining with the people of these abominations, the unfaithfulness of some professors, the lack of zeal for God in not making a more narrow search for the accursed thing in our camp, now when God’s wrath is going out violently against us, and not making an acknowledgment of sins and renewing our national vows, according as our progenitors did, many as it were thinking shame of the covenant, of whom the Church of Scotland may be ashamed.

The Heart of the Fisherman: “The Art of Man- Fishing.” Part 3.

Taken and adapted from, A Soliloquy on The Art of Man- Fishing
Written by Thomas Boston, 1699
Edited for thought and sense.


Ministers are fishers by office…

…they are catchers of the souls of men, “sent to open the eyes of the blind, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God,”

Preachers of the gospel are fishers, and their work and that of fishers agree in several things.

  1. The design and work of fishers is to catch fish. This is the work that preachers of the gospel have taken in hand, even to endeavor to bring souls to Christ. Their design in their work should be the same. Tell me, O my soul, what is thy design in preaching? For what end do you lay the net in the water, is it to show thy gifts, and to gain the applause of men? Oh, no! Lord, you know my gifts are very small; and had I not some other thing than them to lean to, I would never gone to a pulpit. I confess, that, for as small as they are, the devil and my corruptions do sometimes present them to me in a magnifying glass, and so would blow me up with wind. But, Lord, you know it is my work to repel these, motions.
  1. The fisherman’s work is hard work; they are exposed to much cold in the water. So is the minister’s work.
  1. A storm that will frighten others, they will venture on, that they may not lose their fish. So should preachers of the gospel do also.
  1. Fishers catch fish with a net. So preachers have a net to catch souls with. This is the everlasting gospel, the word of peace and reconciliation, wherewith sinners are caught. It is compared to a net wherewith fishers catch fish,
    1. Because it is spread out, ready to catch all that will come into it, Isaiah 45:1, ” Ho, every one that thirst, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk, without money, and without price.” God excludes none from the benefits of the gospel that will not exclude themselves; it is free to all.
    2. Because as fish are taken unexpectedly by the net, so are sinners by the gospel. Zaccheus was little thinking on salvation from Christ when he went to the tree. Paul was not thinking on a sweet meeting with Christ, whom he persecuted, when he was going post-haste on the devil’s errand; but the man is caught unexpectedly. Little were you thinking, O my soul, on Christ, heaven, or thyself, when you went to hear a preaching, when Christ first dealt with thee; there you got an unexpected cast.
    3. As fish sometimes come near and touch the net, and yet draw back; so many souls are somewhat affected at the hearing of the gospel, and yet remain in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity. So Herod heard John the Baptist gladly, but yet the poor man was not caught. Wonder not then, O my soul, you see some affected in the time of preaching; and yet when they are away again, all is worn off.
    4. Some fish that have not been taken fast hold enough by the net, struggle and get out again. So some souls have their convictions, and may seem to be caught; but yet, alas! They stifle all their convictions, stay in the place of the breaking forth; their goodness is like the morning cloud, and as the early dew that soon passes away. Wherefore, O my soul, if ever you be taken up with exercised consciences, have a care that you do not apply the cure before the wound be deep enough. Take all means to understand whether the soul be content to take Christ on his own terms or not. Alas! Many this way, by having the wound scurfed over, are rather killed than cured.
    5. All that are taken in the net do make some struggling to get free. Even so everyone whom the Lord deals with by his Word and Spirit, make some kind of resistance before they are thoroughly caught. And this you also know, O my soul, how you wouldst have been content to have been out of the net. Oh! The wickedness of the heart of man by nature! Opposite is it, and an enemy to all that may be for its eternal welfare. There is indeed a power in our will to resist, yea, and such a power as cannot but be exercised by the will of man, which can do nothing but resist, till the overcoming power of God, the gratia victrix, come and make the unwilling heart willing, Phil. 2:13.
    6. Yet this struggling will not do with those which the net has fast enough. So neither will the resistance do that is made by an elect soul, whom God intends to catch, John 6: 37. All that the Father hath given me, shall come to me. Indeed, God does not convert men to himself against their will, he does not force the soul to receive Christ; but he conquers the will, and it becomes obedient. He that was unwilling before, is then willing. O the power of grace! When God speaks, then men shall hear; then is it that the dead hear the voice of the Son of Man, and they that hear do live.
    7. In a net are many meshes in which the fish are caught. Such are the invitations made to sinners in the gospel, the sweet promises made to them that will come to Christ; these are the meshes wherewith the soul is caught. This then is gospel-preaching, thus to spread out the net of the gospel, wherein are so many meshes of various invitations and promises, to which if the fish do come, they are caught.” But yet,
    8. Let the net be lifted up with the water, and so not fit for taking fish, and the fish slight it, and pass under it; there are some pieces of lead put to it, to hold it right in the water, that it may be before them as they come. So l invitations and promises of the gospel be slighted, there must be used some legal terrors and law threatenings to drive the fish into the net. Thou see then that both law and gospel are to be preached, the law as a small portion of the gospel-net, which makes it effectual; the law being a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ.
    9. The meshes must not be over-wide, or the fish run through. So neither must thy doctrine be general, without particular application, l you be no fisher of men. Indeed men may be the better pleased, when you preach doctrine so as wicked men may run out-through and in-through it, than when you make it so as to take hold of them: but be not a servant of men.
    10. Neither must they be too neat and fine, and curiously wrought, or they hold out the fish. So have a care, O my soul, of striving to make by wit any fine and curious discourse, which thy hearers cannot understand. 
  1. Fishermen observe in what places they should cast their nets, and where they may expect fish. So do you, O my soul, observe where you might catch lost souls. There are two pools wherein the net should be set.
    1. In the public assemblies of the Lord’s people. There it was that Lydia’s heart was opened. The pool of ordinances sometimes is made healing water to souls pining away in their iniquity.
    2. In private conference. Many times the Lord is pleased to bless this for the good of souls. Some have found it so. But more of these things afterwards, when I come to following Christ.
  1. Lastly, Fishers may toil long, and yet catch nothing; but they do not therefore lay aside their work. So may preachers preach long, and yet not catch any soul, Isa. 49:4, and 53:1; but they are not to give over for all that. O my soul, here you art checked for thy behavior at some times under the absence of Christ from ordinances, when you hast been ready to wish you had never taken it in hand. This was my sin: the good Lord pardon it. It becomes me better to lie low under God’s hand, and to inquire into the causes of his withdrawing his presence from me and from ordinances, and yet to hold on in duty till he be pleased to lay me by. Have a care of that, O my soul, and let not such thoughts and wishes possess thee again. Forget not how God made thee to read this thy sin, in thy punishment, Diary, Nov. 13, 1698. Hold on, O my soul, and give not way to these discouragements. Thou know not but Christ may come and teach thee to let down the net at the right side of the ship, and you may yet be a fisher of men. Trust God you shalt yet praise him for the help of his countenance as you hast done, and perhaps for some souls that you may be yet honored to catch.

And thus I have briefly considered these things. But the main question that I would have resolved is, how may I come by this art? What way I shall take to be a fisher of men? How I may arrange and set the net, that it may bring in souls to God?

Why are unconverted men compared to fish in the water? “The Art of Man- Fishing.” Part 2.

Taken and adapted from, A Soliloquy on The Art of Man- Fishing
Written by Thomas Boston, 1699
Edited for thought and sense.

product_thumbAmong other reasons, they are so like fish is,

1. Because as the water is the natural element of fish, so sin is the proper and natural element for an unconverted soul. Take the fish out of the water, it cannot live; and take from a natural man his idols, he is ready to say with Micah, Ye have taken away my gods, and what have I more? The young man in the gospel could not be persuaded to seek after treasure in heaven, and lay by the world. It is in sin that the only delight of natural men is; but in holiness they have no more delight than a fish upon the earth, or a sow in a palace. Oh the woeful case of a natural man!

Bless the Lord, O my soul, that when that was thy element as well as that of others, yet Christ took thee in his net, held thee, and would not let thee go, and put another principle in thee, so that now it is heavy for thee to wade, far more to swim in these waters.

2. The fish in a sunny day are seen to play themselves in the water. So the unregenerate, whatever grief they may seem to have upon their spirits, when a storm arises, either without, by outward troubles, or within by conscience-gnawing convictions, yet when these are over, and they are in a prosperous state, they play themselves in the way of sin, and take their pleasure in it, not considering what it may cost them at the last. Oh, how does prosperity in the world ruin many a soul! The prosperity of fools shall destroy them. And O how destructive would prosperity have been to thee, O my soul, if God had given it to thee many times when thou wouldst have had it! Bless the Lord that ever he was pleased to cross thee in a sinful course.

3. As the fish greedily look after and snatch at the bait, not minding the hook; even so natural men drink in sin greedily, as the ox drinks in the water. They look on sin as a sweet morsel; and it is to them sweet in the mouth, though bitter in the belly. They play with it, as the fish with the bait; but, oh alas, when they take the serpent in their bosom, they mind not the sting, Prov. 9: 17, 18. The devil knows well how to dress his hooks; but alas, men know not by nature how to discern them. Pity then, O my soul, the wicked of the world, whom thou see greedily satisfying their lusts. Alas! They are poor blinded souls ; they see the bait, but not the hook; and therefore it is that they are even seen as it were dancing about the mouth of the pit; therefore rush they on to sin as a horse to the battle, not knowing the hazard.

O pity the poor drunkard, the swearer, the unclean person, etc., that is wallowing in his sin. Bless thou the Lord also, O my soul, that when thou was playing with the bait, and as little minding the hook as others, God opened thine eyes, and let thee see thy nakedness and danger, that thou might flee from it. And O be now careful that thou snatch at none of the devil’s baits, lest he catch thee with his hook: for though thou may be restored again by grace, yet it shall not be without a wound; as the fish sometimes slip the hook, but go away wounded; which wound may be sad to thee, and long a-healing. And this thou hast experienced.

4. As fish in the water love deep places and wells, and are most frequently found there; so wicked men have a great love to carnal security, and have no will to strive against the stream. Fish love deep places best, where there is least noise. O how careful are natural men to keep all quiet, that there may be nothing to disturb them in their rest in sin! They love to be secure, which is their destruction. O my soul, beware of carnal security, of being secure, though plunged over head and ears in sin.

5. As fish are altogether unprofitable as long as they are in the water, so are wicked men in their natural estate, they can do nothing that is really good: they are unprofitable to themselves, and unprofitable to others: what good they do to others, is more per accidents than per se, Rom. 3:12. How far must they then be mistaken, who think the wicked of the world the most useful in the place where they live! They may indeed be useful for carrying on designs for Satan’s interest, or their own vain glory; but really to lay out themselves for God, they cannot.

“The Art of Man- Fishing.” Part 1.

Taken and adapted from, A Soliloquy on The Art of Man- Fishing 
Written by  Thomas Boston, 1699
Edited for thought and sense.



“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
–Matthew 4:19

I. There is a duty, “Follow me” from which we should consider…

A. The object, “me” even the Lord Jesus Christ, the chief fisher of men, who was sent by the Father to gather in the lost sheep of the house of Israel, who was and is the infinitely wise God, and so knew the best way to catch men, and can instruct men how to be fishers of others.

B. The act, Follow me (Gr. come after): Leave your employment, and come after me. Though no doubt there is a direction here to all the ministers of the gospel, that have left their other employments, and betaken themselves to the preaching of the word, and as follows, that if they would do good to souls, and gain them by their ministry, then they are to imitate Christ, in their carriage and preaching to make him their pattern, to write after his copy, as a fit mean for gaining of souls.

II. There is a promise annexed to the duty.

Wherein we may consider,

A.  The benefit promised; that is, to be made fishers of men; which I take to be not only an investing of them with authority, and a calling of them to the office, but also a promise of the success they should have, that fishing of men should be their employment, and they should not be employed in vain, but following Christ, they should indeed catch men by the gospel.

B.  The fountain-cause of this, I, I will make you; none other can make you fishers of men but me.

You may observe,

A.  Then, O my soul, that it is the Lord Jesus Christ that makes men fishers of men. Here I shall shew; First, How Christ makes men fishers of men. Second. Why unconverted men are compared to fish in the water. Third, That ministers are fishers by office.

I. How does Christ make men fishers of men?

In answer to this question, consider spiritual fishing two ways. 1. As to the office and work itself; and 2. As to the success of it.

First. He makes them fishers as to their office, by his call, which is twofold, outward and inward, by setting them apart to the office of the ministry; and it is thy business, O my soul, to know whether thou hast it or not. But of this more afterwards.

Second. He makes them fishers as to success; that is, he makes them catch men to himself by the power of his spirit accompanying the word they preach, and the discipline they administer, 1 Cor. 1:18, “The preaching of the cross” unto us which are saved, is the power of God.” 1 Thess. 1:5, “Our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance.” He it is that brings sinners into the net which ministers spread; and if he be not with them to drive the fish into the net, they may toil all the night, and day too, and catch nothing.

1. O my soul, then see that gifts will not do the business. A man may preach as an angel, and yet be useless. If Christ withdraw his presence, all will be to no purpose. If the Master of the house be away, the household will loath their food, though it be dropping down about their tent-doors.

2. Why shouldst thou then on the one hand, as sometimes thou art, be lifted up when thou preach a good and solid discourse, wherein gifts do appear, and thou gettest the applause of men? Why, thou mayst do all this, and yet be no fisher of men. The fish may see the bait, and play about it as pleasant, but this is not enough to catch them. On the other hand, why shouldst thou be so much discouraged (as many times is the case), because thy gifts are so small, and thou art but as a child in comparison of others?

Why, if Christ will, he can make thee a fisher of men, as well as the most learned rabbi in the church, Psalm 8: 2. Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength. Yea, hast thou not observed how God owned a man very weak in gifts and made him more successful than others that were far beyond him in parts?

Has not God put this treasure in earthen vessels, that the power might be seen to be of him? Lift up thyself then, O my soul, Christ can make thee a fisher of men, however weak thou art. Follow thou him. My soul desires to follow hard after thee, O God !

3. Be concerned then, in the first place, O my soul, for the presence of God in ordinances, and for his power that will make a change among people, Psalm 110: 3. When thy discourse, though ever so elaborate, shall be but as a lovely song, O set thyself most for this. When thou study, send up praises to thy Lord for it. When thou write a sermon, or ruminate on it, then say to God, Lord, this will be altogether weak without thy power accompanying it. O, power and life from God in ordinances is sweet.

Seek it for thyself, and seek it for thy hearers. Acknowledge thine own weakness and uselessness without it, and so cry incessantly for it, that the Lord may drive the fish into the net, when thou art spreading it out. Have an eye to this power, when thou art preaching; and think not thou to convert men by the force of reason: If thou do, thou wilt be beguiled.

4. What an honorable thing is it to be fishers of men! How great an honor should thou esteem it, to be a catcher of souls! We are workers together with God, says the apostle. If God has ever so honored thee, O that thou knew it, that thou might bless his holy name, that ever made such a poor fool as thee to be a co-worker with him. God has owned thee to do good to those who were before caught. O my soul, bless thou the Lord. Lord, what am I, or what is my father’s house, that thou hast brought me to this?

5. Then don’t you see here what the reason is you toil so long, and catch nothing? The power comes not along. Men are like Samuel, who, when God was calling him, thought it had been Eli. So when thou speak many times, they do not discern God’s voice, but thine; and therefore the word goes out as it comes in.

6. Then, O my soul, despair not of the conversion of any, be they ever so dissolute. For it is the power of the Spirit that drives any person into the net; and this cannot be resisted. Mockers of religion, yea, blasphemers may be brought into the net; and many times the wind of God’s Spirit in the word lays the tall cedars in sin down upon the ground, when they that seem to be as low shrubs in respect of them, stand fast upon their root. Publicans and harlots shall enter the kingdom of heaven before self-righteous Pharisees.

7. What thinkest thou, O my soul, of that doctrine that lays aside this power of the Spirit, and makes moral suasion all that is requisite to the fishing of men? That doctrine is hateful to thee. My soul loathes it, as attributing too much to the preacher, and too much to corrupt nature, in taking away its natural impotency to good, and as against the work of God’s Spirit, contrary to experience; and is to me a sign of the rottenness of the heart that embraces it. Alas! that it should be owned by any among us, where so much of the Spirit’s power has been felt.