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.