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  • CHARLES SPURGEON -
    THE SWORD AND THE TROWEL - SEPTEMBER 1878.


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    FISHING. F8 AN ADDRESS AT TABERNACLE PRAYER-MEETING BY C.H.SPURGEON ON HIS RETURN FROM SCOTLAND.

    IFEAR I have gathered but few illustrations during my holiday in the north, though I am almost always upon the look out for them. I have spent nearly all my time on board my friend Mr. Duncan’s yacht, cruising by day in sunny seas, and usually anchoring at night in lonely bays, far off from the busy haunts of men, where you hear neither rumble of traffic nor hum of city life, but are startled by the scream of sea-birds, the cry of the seal, and the splash of leaping fish. The profound quiet of those solitary regions is a bath of rest for a wearied brain: lone mountain, and sparkling wave, and circling gull, and flitting sea-swallow, all seem to call the mind away from care and toil to rest and play. I am grateful to the last degree for the brief furlough which is permitted me, and for the intense enjoyment and repose which I find in the works of God. No exhibitions, or picture galleries, or artificial recreations, or medical preparations can afford a tithe of the restoring influence which pure nature exercises.

    I have been resting, but not idling; relieving the mind, but not smothering it. Very frequently I have seen others fishing, and as I have looked on with interest and excitement, I have been sorry to have been able to take so small a share in it. Perhaps, however, I have gained as much from lines and nets as those who personally used them: they took the fish, but I preserved the silver truths which the creatures brought their months. These pieces of money I have taken, like Peter, not for myself only, but “for me and thee,” and so let us share them.. We have a good company of spiritual fishermen in our midst to-night, for here are the young members of “the College of Fishermen,” who are making and mending their nets; here, too, are eager members of a church in which, when the minister says, “I go a-fishing,” all the members say, “We will go with thee.” Here are the fishers of the Sabbath-schools and of the Bible-classes, fishers of the Tract Society and of the Evangelists’ Associations; all these have heard our Lord say, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Not for the hurling of our fellows but for their good we seek to “take up all of them with the angle, to catch them in our net, and gather them in our drag”; and therefore we are willing to learn from others who are fishers too.

    Fishermen speak of what they call gathering bait , and they say, such a fish is a “gathering bait,” and another is a “killing bait.” We need both. The gathering bait brings the fishes together, and thus becomes very useful.

    You cannot catch the fish if they are not there, and it is therefore wise to throw in your ground-bait pretty freely to attract the finny multitude. I wish some of my fellow fishermen were a little more liberal with gathering bait, for one would like to see the creeks and bays of their pews and galleries swarming with life. Some of them appear rather to frighten the fish away than to attract them around their hooks, they are so dull, so monotonous, so long, and so sour. All spiritual fishermen should learn the art of attraction; Jesus drew men to himself, and we must draw men in like manner. Not only in the pulpit but in the Sunday-school class you need gathering bait, to draw the little ones together, and maintain and increase their numbers. In every other sphere of Christian service the same is true. If faith cometh by hearing, we should first endeavor to gain interested listeners, for how shall they believe if they will not hear. Common sense teaches us that the people must be drawn together first, and must be induced to attend to what we have to put before them; and therefore we must lay ourselves out to this end, because it is essential to our highest aim.

    A pleasant manner, an interesting style, and even a touch of wit, may be useful. I have sometimes been blamed for making use of pleasantries, but I have done so partly because I could not help it, and chiefly because I have perceived that the interest is sustained and the attention excited by a dash of the familiar and the striking. A sufficient quantity of that which will draw men to listen to our message we not only may use but must use, unless we mean to be content with empty nets and useless hooks. A good temper is a fine gathering bait in a Sabbath-school. There are, some of our brethren and sisters whose very faces are enough to gather the children round them. If I were a little girl I could not help being drawn to some of the sisters who teach in our schools; and if I were a boy the kindly manners of many of our brethren would bind me to them at once: kindly teachers need not bribe children with gifts, their looks and words are irresistible bonds. Cheerfulness and good humor should be conspicuous in all our attempts to catch men for Jesus; we cannot drive them to the Savior, but they may be drawn. There is a way of giving a tract in the street which will ensure its kindly treatment, and another way which will prejudice the receiver against it: you can shove it into a person’s hand so roughly that it is almost an insult, or you can hold it out so deftly that the, passer-by accepts; it with pleasure. Do not thrust it upon him as if it were a writ, but invite him to accept it as if it were a ten-pound note. Our fish need delicate handling. The painter, when asked how he mixed his colors, replied, “With brains, sir,” and we must fish for the souls of men let like fashion. If you are to win souls you must not be fools. Men will no more succeed in the Lord’s business than they will in their own unless they have their wits about them. If Christ’s work be done in a slovenly or churlish manner it will answer no man’s purpose, but prove labor in vain. We cannot make the fish bite, but we can do our best to draw them near the killing bait of the word of God, and when once they are there we will watch and pray till they are fairly taken.

    The fisherman, however, thinks far less of his gathering bait than he does of his catching bait, in which he hides his hook. Very numerous are his inventions for winning his prey, and it is by practice that he learns how to adapt his bait to his fish. Scores of things serve as bait, and when he is not actually at work the wise fisherman takes care to seize anything which comes in his way which may be useful when the time comes to cast his lines. We usually carried mussels, whelks, and some of the courser sorts of fish, which could be used when they were wanted. When the anchor was down the hooks were baited and let down for the benefit of the inhabitants of the deep, and great would have been the disappointment if they had merely swarmed around the delicious, morsel, but had refused to partake thereof. A good fisherman actually catches fish. He is not always alike successful, but, as a rule, he has something to show for his trouble. I do not call that man a fisherman whose basket seldom holds a fish; he is sure to tell you of the many bites he had, and of that very big fish which he almost captured; bat that is neither here nor there. There are some whose knowledge of terms and phrases, and whose extensive preparations lead you to fear that they will exterminate the fishy race, but as their basket returns empty, they can hardly be so proficient as they seem. The parable hardly needs expounding: great talkers and theorizers are common enough, and there are not a few whose cultured boastfulness is only exceeded by their life-long failure. We cannot take these for our example, nor fall at their feet with reverence for their pretensions. We must have sinners saved.

    Nothing else will content us: the fisherman must take fish or lose his toil, and we must bring souls to Jesus, or we shall break our hearts with disappointment.

    Walking to the head of the boat one evening, I saw a line over the side, and must needs hold it. You can feel by your finger whether you have a bite or no, but I was in considerable doubt whether anything was at the other end or not. I thought they were biting, but I was not certain, so I pulled up the long line, and found that the baits were all gone; the fish had sucked them all off, and that was what they were doing when I was in doubt. If you have nothing but a sort of gathering bait, and the fish merely come and suck, but do not take the hook, you will catch no fish; you need killing bait.

    This often happens in the Sunday-school: a pleasing speaker tells a story, and the children are all listening, he has gathered them; now comes the spiritual lesson, but hardly any of them take notice of it, they have sucked the bait from the hook, and are up and away. A minister in preaching delivers a telling illustration, all the ears in the place are open, but when he comes to the application of it the people have become listless; they like the bait very well, but not the hook; they like the adornment of the tale, but not the point of the moral. This is poor work. The plan is, if you possibly can manage it, so to get the bait on the hook that they cannot suck it off, but must take the hook and all. Do take care, dear friends, when you teach children or grown-up people, that you do not arrange the anecdotes in such a way that they can sort them out, as boys pick the plums from their cakes, or else you will amuse but no benefit.

    When your tackle is in good trim, it is very pleasant to feel the fish biting, but it is quite the reverse to watch by the hour, and to have no sign.. Then patience has her perfect work. It is very encouraging to feel that a large creature of some sort is tugging away at the other end of your line. Up with him at once! It is better still to have two hooks and to pull up two fish at a time, as one of our friends did. To do this twice every minute, or as fast as ever you can throw the line is best of all. What an excitement!

    Nobody grows tired, and the day is hardly long enough. Up with them! In with the lines! What, another bite? Quick, quick.! We seem to be all among a shoal. The basket is soon filled; this is good fishing. Our great Lord sometimes guides his ministers to the right kind of bait, and to the right spot for the fish, and they take so many that they have hardly time to attend to each ease, but in joyful haste receive the converts by the score, and fill the boat. It is grand fishing when the fish flock around you, but it does not happen all the day long, nor yet all the days of the week, nor yet all the weeks of the year, else would there be a great rush for the fishers’ trade.

    When amateurs are at sea and the fish do not bite, they have nothing to do but to give over and amuse themselves in some other way, but it must not be so with us, to whom fishing for souls is a life-work and a vocation; we must persevere, whether we have present success or not. At times we have to spend many a weary hour with our line, and never feel a bite; but we must not, therefore, go to sleep, for it would be a pity for the angler to lose a fish by negligence. Draw the line in every now and then, look to the hooks, try a new bait, or go to the other side of the vessel, and cast your tackle into another place. Do, not be disappointed because you do not always fish as you did once; have patience and your hour will come.

    Our captain one evening when we were in a very lovely bay came up to me and said, “Look at this: I only just threw the line over the side, and this fine cod has taken the bait in a minute.” A cod is noted for the thorough manner in which it swallows the bait. Being of a hungry nature it is not in a picking humor, but feeds heartily. I remarked at the time that the cod was like earnest hearers who are hungering for divine grace, and so greedily snatch at the sacred word. Hungering and thirsting, their souls faint within them, and when the promise of the gospel is placed before them they seize it directly: tell them of Jesus and full deliverance through his precious blood, they do not make two bites of the gracious message — they dash at it, and they are not content till they have it, and it holds them fast. O for more of such hearers.

    All fish are not of this kind, for some of them are cautious to the last degree. The author of “The Sea Fisherman” introduces us to an old salt, who says of the Conger eel, “He don’t bite home, sir,” — that is to say, he does not take the hook if he can help it.

    In the instance referred to it had stolen the bait six times, and yet was not captured. Alas, we have an abundance of hearers of this kind, who are interested, but not impressed, or impressed but not converted “they don’t bite home,” and we fear they never will.

    This fishing with a line is a suggestive subject, but I must leave it to say a word about fishing with the net, a mode of fishing to which our Savior makes more numerous allusions than to angling with a hook.

    When we came home on the Monday, after visiting Rothesay, we cast anchor in the Holy Loch. Mr. Duncan said to me, “Look at the fish. Just look at them out there, they are leaping up on all sides; and there are the men, let us go and see what they are getting.” We were soon in a boat pulling towards them, while all around us were the fish leaping in the air and splashing back into the water. We reached the fishers, who were just getting out the net. I suppose you all know how this is done. A certain number of men remained near the shore with one end of the net, while others in a boat encompassed a great circle of water, letting out the net as they went along. Thus they enclosed a large space, and the salmon within that area were fairly imprisoned. When all was ready the fishers began to pull at both ends, so as to make the circle smaller and smaller. We followed the decreasing ring, and kept just outside the edge of the net. The fish, which had still been leaping all around us, now began to do so in greater earnest, for those within the range of the net seemed to know that they were in an undesirable position, and strove to leap out of it. Some escaped, but many more failed in the attempt. The men kept pulling in, and then it became very exciting, for it was evident that the net was full of life. Here is a very good picture of what we should do as a church. I am to go out on the Sabbath with the net, the grand old gospel net, and it is my business, to let it out and encompass the thousands who fill the Tabernacle; then on Monday night at the prayer-meeting we must all join in pulling in the big net, and looking after the fish. So we bring to land all that, have been caught. Many who were surrounded by the net during the sermon will jump out before we secure them, but still it is a comfort that it is not every fish that knows how to get out of the gospel net. Some of them will be in a rage, and bite at the nets, but they will only be the more surely held prisoners. To me it was a very pleasant sight to see within the net a mass of living, twisting, and struggling salmon-trout, most of them fine fish. There were thirty-seven large fish taken at one haul. O that we may often succeed in taking men in larger numbers still. Let us drag in the net to-night. Let us pray the Lord to bless the services of last Lord’s-day, and recompense the fisher’s toil.

    We must never be satisfied till we lift sinners out of their native element.

    That destroys fish, but it saves souls. We long to be the means of lifting sinners out of the water of sin to lay them in the boat at the feet of Jesus.

    To this end we must enclose them as in a net; we must shut them up under the law, and surround them with the gospel, so that there is no getting out, but they must be captives unto Christ. We must net them with entreaties, encircle them with invitations, and entangle them with prayers. We cannot let them get away to perish in their sin, we must land them at the Savior’s feet. This is our design, but we need help from above to accomplish it: we require our Lord’s direction to know where to cast the net, and the Spirit’s helping of our infirmity that we may know how to do it. May the Lord teach us to profit, and may we return from our fishing, bringing our fish with us. Amen.

    GIVE TRUTH TIME.

    NEVER give up a great principle in on theology account of difficulties. Wait patiently, and the difficulties may all melt away. Let that be an axiom in your mind. Suffer me to mention an illustration of what I mean. Persons who are conversant with astronomy know that before the discovery of the planet Neptune there were difficulties, which greatly troubled the most scientific astronomers, respecting certain aberrations of the planet Uranus.

    These aberrations puzzled the minds of astronomers; and some of them suggested that they might possibly prove the whole Newtonian system to be untrue. But just at that time a well-known French astronomer, named Leverrier, read before the Academy of Science at Paris a paper, in which he laid down this great axiom, — that it did not become a scientific man to give up a principle because of difficulties which apparently could not be explained. He said in effect, “We cannot explain the aberrations of Uranus now; but we may be sure that the Newtonian system will be proved to be right, sooner or later. Something may be discovered one day which will prove that these aberrations may be accounted for, and yet the Newtonian system remain true and unshaken.” A few years after, the anxious eyes of astronomers discovered the last great planet, Neptune. This planet was shown to be the true cause of all the aberrations of Uranus; and what the French astronomer had laid down as a principle in science was proved to be wise and true. The application of the anecdote is obvious. Let us beware of giving up any first principle in theology. Let us not give up the great principle of plenary verbal inspiration because of apparent difficulties. The day may come when they will all be solved. In the meantime we may rest assured that the difficulties which beset any other theory of inspiration are tenfold greater than any which beset our own. — Canon Ryle.

    NOTES AUGUST 11 TH.

    — The seatholders vacated their seats on the evening of this Sabbath, and the place was over-packed with a dense throng. The power of the Lord was present to heal. At no time have the people ever seemed so eager to hear the word of God. Prayer is asked that every sermon may be attended with the divine Blessing. The open-air service held at the Orphanage while the Pastor preached at the Tabernacle was largely attended, and Charles Spurgeon took a leading part in it, to the joy of those who delight to see the fathers followed by their sons.

    MRS.SPURGEON’ S BOOK FUND — Mrs. Spurgeon, though extremely ill, is incessantly occupied with sending out books to ministers in Ireland. For this work a friend gave a special amount. Some mistake has arisen upon the matter, which we would like to rectify. Mrs. Spurgeon’s offer of books is not made to all ministers in Ireland, but to all poor ministers in actual work: hence when others apply in ignorance of this limitation, she hopes that they will take kindly the refusal which it pains her to give, but which it is her duty to send, because the fund is for poor brethren only. In consequence of the publicity given to this Irish offer, large numbers of English ministers have applied — poor ministers whose cases must not be refused; but we mention with some pain that there are no funds in hand.

    Prayer has been offered, and the answer is expected, but perhaps the Lord means us to tell his stewards that this good work of supplying poor preachers with books now needs their attention. Our beloved wife sends out little mountains of books every week; the applications just now are more numerous than at any other time, and she has literally nothing to go on with. This is a sore trial. We feel that we have only to mention the circumstance and help will come, and yet if each one believes this, and leaves the matter to everybody, that is to say, to nobody, the needed aid will not come. Friends are just now at the seaside, or at Paris, or in the country, and therefore almost all parts of the work find this to be a dull time for subscriptions. We hope that this one department may be treated in an exceptional manner.

    Friends will notice in our College accounts the sum of £20 from “Two Sisters, profits of College House.” Now, to this amount there attaches deep interest. Two Christian ladies of private means thought that they could help our work for the Lord if they opened a shop and gave all the profits to the College. Some years ago they commenced business, sacrificing their ease in this most laudable endeavor. We did not like to mention the circumstance, for fear it should be misunderstood by the world, and our good friends did not press us to do so till they had seen how the experiment would answer. Having, as private ladies, very little knowledge of business, the “two sisters” did not make a profit, nor even meet their expenses for years, but they were resolved not to be beaten, and so they have continued the shop till the first profit has been gained and paid in. Having seen their indefatigable zeal, and having known what sacrifices they have made, we now feel that we must put aside every shade of false delicacy, and say that the shop is known as College House, 209, Tottenham Court Road, and the business is that of ladies’ outfitting. If our friends purchase goods there, the profits will go to the Pastors’ College, and they will net have to pay more, than they would elsewhere. No one is asked to buy except as they would elsewhere, but there is the fact that the business of 209, Tottenham Court Road is carried on entirely with the view of benefiting the College. The ladies do not even take their own board and lodging from the proceeds, It is proposed on Sept. 25, to held a meeting at the Tabernacle, to bid farewell to our colored brethren, Messrs. Johnson and Richardson, who are sailing for the West Coast of Africa. They will sing some of their quaint songs, and Mr. Manton Smith and the Tabernacle choir, under Mr. Fristy, will assist. May these true-hearted brethren he burning and shining lights in the land of their fathers.

    Our publishers ask us to mention that they have a large quantity of back numbers of our sermons, which they will be happy to supply at a greatly reduced price to tract societies or distributors. Application must he made direct to Messrs. Passmore and Alabaster, 4, Paternoster Buildings, London, E.C. They are a stock purchased by them from a book- seller, and consist of the accumulations of years. They are now offered for a trifle for benevolent purposes, but it is understood that they are not to be purchased for sale. We often hear of these sermons being used as loan tracts, and this is an opportunity to procure a cheap supply, COLLEGE.

    — On Tuesday, Aug . 6, the students assembled at Nightingale Lane, for a day’s enjoyment previous to the commencement of the work of another session. Between ten and eleven o’clock in the morning a considerable number met at the President’s garden, where a devotional service was held, after which most of the twenty-five new students were introduced with appropriate comments, During the rest of the morning, and also after dinner, various exercises and amusements were heartily engaged in on Mr. Spurgeon’s lawn, and also in the spacious and beautiful grounds of Mr. Coventry. Dinner and tea were admirably served in a large tent by Messrs, Murrell and Mills and their numerous helpers, and although the students, ministers, and visitors amounted to nearly two hundred, there was provision enough and to spare. After dinner, addresses were delivered by the President, Vice-President, and tutors, and before separating in the evening a few words of sympathy and congratulation were spoken by Mr. Andrew Dunn, who is the accepted candidate for parliamentary honors in Southwark. Hearty thanks were accorded to Mr. Coventry for the use of his grounds, a closing address on the work of the College was given by the President, and the proceedings of a most delightful day were brought to a close with the doxology and the benediction. Arrangements have been made for a course of five lectures at the College on Friday evenings at 7:30. The general public will be admitted by tickets, costing sixpence each lecture, or eighteenpence the course. The program is as follows: Sept. 6th, by Joseph J. Pope Esq., M.R.C.S., L.M., L.S.A., on “Why and How we Breathe.” Chairman, C. H. Spurgeon. Sept. 13th, W. H. Gelding, Esq., on “Birds of the Bible.” Chairman, B.W. Carr, Esq. Sept. 20th, Professor Pepper, on “Wonders of Vibratory Motion.” Chairman, Rev. V. J. Charlesworth.

    Sept. 27th, Edward B. Aveling, Esq., D. Sc., Lond., F.L.S., Lecturer on Comparative Anatomy at London Hospital, on “The Biography of a Frog.” Chairman, C. Allison, Esq. Oct. 4th., W. R. May, Esq., on “Spectrum Analysis, and the Chemistry of the Heavens.”

    Chairman, Mr. C. Spurgeon, junior. Deaths . — On the morning of the College Festival a mourning card and letter arrived from the father of Mr. Gregory, of Brynmawr, one of our students, who had been obliged to relinquish his studies through ill health, informing us of his early, but peaceful, death a few days before. About the same time the news reached us of the sudden death of our old friend and co-worker, Mr. Thomas Ness, of Newton. He had long been an invalid, but had displayed marvelous energy in his Lord’s service. He rests from his labors, and his works do follow him. At the same time, at the close of slingerins illness died our former student, Mr. Burtt, at one time the pastor of the church at Aldborough — a good man and true. During the past month another member of our conference, Mr. J. O. Wills, of Stockton-on- Tees, has been called to his reward, leaving behind him a wife and five little children, needing the kind hand of Christian help. Thus has death been robbing the church militant of its soldiers, and swelling the ranks of the church triumphant. “We a little longer wait, But how little none can tell” We note, then, in all these four cases the Lord has removed those who were ailing, and whose lives we could not have hoped to see much longer continued among us. Thus mercy is mingled with it all; but bereaved wives and children need greater consolation than this: may the Lord send it by the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. Removals and Settlements. — Mr. Raymond, of St. Neot’s, has accepted the pastorate at Llandudno; Mr. Fletcher, of Sutton-on-Trent, has removed to Alfold, Lincolnshire; Mr. Chambers, late of Aberdeen, has been appointed by the Staffordshire Association to the post of Evangelist and the Home Mission Superintendent in that country; and Mr. Vaughan, of Surrey Lane Chapel, Battersea, has sailed for Australia. All these brethren have our best wishes. The following students, have accepted pastorates: — Mr. T. Hagen, Great Yarmouth; Mr. J. A. Soper, East End Conference Hall; Mr. John Wilson Charles-street, Woolwich; Mr. A. F. Cotton, Ponder’s End; Mr. B. Marshall, Horley; and Mr. W. A. Davis, South Shields. Mr. Childs also concludes his College term, and settles at Wyndham Road, Camberwell.

    The Orphanage boys go north on Sept. 26, to sing at Middlesboro, Stockton, and Newcastle. Will friends in those regions give them kindly recognition and support? Very grateful are we to the gentleman who has paid all the charges for the Town Hall at Newcastle for the Orphanage meetings. God always raises up kind friends for the fatherless.

    The quarterly collectors’ meeting will be held at the Orphanage on Friday, Oct. 4. Tea at five. In the evening views will be exhibited illustrating Mr. Spurgeon’s trip to Scotland. Friends can be admitted at seven, at sixpence each.

    COLPORTAGE — All appears to be working satisfactorily with the Society, hence but little to report this month. The most pleasing feature of the work at present seems to be that Local Associations, which at first employed one or two colporteurs, have become so convinced of the utility and necessity of Colportage that, after fair trial, they are applying for an increased number of agents, In Hampshire, Wiltshire, Northamptonshire, and Worcostershire this has been the case; and two additional colporteurs will be started in the latter country shortly. Testimony to the beneficial results of the work is too extended to find a place in these notes. But briefly, the reports continually prove that a vast amount of good literature is being sold with beneficial effect, both upon the mind and soul of the purchaser. The afflicted and dying are visited, and the Word of God read to them, while it is also preached in the cottage, in the open air, and in regular places of worship, with conversions following. We confidently expect as the work becomes more widely known, and trade improves, that a large increase will take place of our not inconsiderable staff of ninety colporteurs. In the meantime, will our readers Dray for the Society, and its work, and continue to help it by contributing to the funds? The following extract from a recently published local report will he read with interest: — “It would be difficult fully to estimate the value, religiously, of the four colporteurs employed in this district being brought continuously into contact with 45,150 families, comprising nearly 100,000 individuals. And while all must rejoice that 1,085 Bibles and Testaments were sold to the people, who shall estimate the benefit of nearly £500 worth of books sold, and 1,974 periodicals circulated. How many reading these have relinquished the trashy novel, and the worse than trashy — the positively demoralizing periodicals? The sick and dying beds of hundreds of persons have been cheered and enlivened by the visits of your agents, who in many cases are the only visitors, and again and again do we hear from persons well able to judge of the high appreciation in which those visits are held.

    This department fatherless, trouble and outlay. “The committee have great pleasure in recording their satisfaction with the conduct and work of the four colporteurs, and recognizing their arduous duty, embracing, as it does, much real manual labor, and constant exposure to all kinds of weather.

    They thank God for the preservation of the lives and health of the agents; and solicit from all Christians the manifestation of hearty sympathy with these our fellow workers; and also earnest prayer to God for his blessing on them and their work.”

    Baptisms at Metropolitan Tabernacle by J.A. Spurgeon: — August l, nine. 485

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