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Mark 1:16-17 - Homilies By A. Rowland

Christ's call to busy men.

Simon and Andrew were just beginning their day's work by casting their net into the sea, and at that critical moment, when, if ever, delay would seem excusable, Christ called them to follow him. But he had already won their hearts, and they were only waiting for such a summons to come, "and strait-way they forsook their nets, and followed him." In their daily work these fishermen had acquired devotion, patience, and enterprise, which were now to be consecrated to nobler service, when, as fishers of men, they would gather spoil from the restless, dreary sea of human life. A call coming to men in the midst of their daily business reminds us of the following truths:—

I. THAT HONEST WORK FITS FOR HIGHER DUTIES . Those who are indolent in the world are not of great use in the Church. If men are not fit for ordinary work, they seldom are fit for Christ's service. Our Lord does not call the indolent aesthetes, who would gaze on a lily for hours in a languid rapture, but he summons men with capacity, self-rule, vigor, and tact. God has ever chosen such. If he would have a lawgiver, he calls one who is as diligent among the sheepfolds in Mid, an as he had been in the schools of Egypt. If he would tell the world of his future kingdom, he inspires a statesman like Daniel, who already has upon him the cares of a great empire. If he would speak Burning words to his people, he summons to his service the herdman who drives his cattle home in the gloaming down the hillside of Tekoa. So here, Christ calls Matthew from the receipt of custom, and these four fishers from their boats. In the daily plod, in the monotonous round of life, above the whirr of human traffic a voice speaks, saying, "Come ye after me."

II. THAT DIGNITY AND BLESSING ARE TO BE FOUND IN DALLY TOIL . Toil, once a cuisse, has been transformed by Christ Jesus into work which is a source of blessing to the world. In nature we can only regain a wilderness to order and beauty by unremitting toil; and only by long labour do we repossess ourselves of rule. The exquisite flowers in the hothouse are signs of human skill as well as of God's gift. The rich harvest-fields, which whisper of abundance, are nature's response to work. Wherever idleness is supreme, fertile lands become the lairs of wild beasts, and man, who was appointed to regal right, starves amid profusion. Besides, work is good for society, as it was good for those disciples to be thrown together so as to share perils and successes, for thus mutual love and confidence arose. Society is most compact and stable when built upon a foundation of industry—every class recognizing its dependence on another, as stones in the living temple. That home is the happiest, too, in which self-indulgence is a stranger, and where mutual sympathy is felt in the efforts of all.

III. THAT IN ORDINARY OCCUPATIONS WE MAY REALIZE THE PRESENCE OF CHRIST . His sympathy with the busy none can question. He himself spent more time in ordinary work than in public teaching, tie gave his presence to his disciples (both before his resurrection and after it) when they were on the lake working for a living. Still he is to be found, not in the dreams of the mystics or in the cell of the hermit, so much as in the heart of him who must be busy with the world's work and yet prays to be free from its spirit. Conscious of his nearness, we shall not do our work carelessly; we shall not lower the standard set Before us in his Word; we shall never shrink from rebuking wrong-doing, even when it is customary; and there will be constant joy within our hearts amidst all turmoil, so that we can say," I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth." Beware of going steadily on with work without any thought of Christ, as if self was your king and the world your home. You may prosper so greatly that others will envy your skill and "good luck;" but the day of reckoning will surely come; the law of retribution will not sleep. Reaping only what you have sown, your largest gain will prove your deepest loss.

IV. THAT CHRIST IS CALLING ALL TO LOFTIER SERVICE . It is necessary to labour, for the supply of physical wants, but there are other and higher responsibilities resting upon us as parents, employers, teachers, and friends. With wonderful condescension our Lord describes the nature of his service, by figures drawn from the scenes with which his hearers were most familiar. If people followed him for the sake of the bread which perisheth, he spoke to them of the "Bread of life;" and if a woman was drawing water at the well, he spoke to her of "living water." He led the Magians to him by "a star;" and taught these fishermen by their fishing, telling them that hereafter they should " catch men," not, indeed, for death, but for life. This was a beautiful image for all time. The sea represents the wide world, which seems dark and deep as we stand on the fringe of its mystery, wonderingly. The fish are emblematic of those lost to the sight of some in the higher world, as they wander amid oozy weeds and treacherous rocks. The net pictures the truths and warnings of the gospel, which lay hold on men, and, gathering them together, raise them into a new element, in which they can only live when they have a new life. As "fishers of men," we want patience and hope, for we know little or nothing of the result of the toil as yet. We only know that the net is cast, but the draught is not yet counted upon the shore. It is ours to "mend" the net, to have it well in hand, to cast it in a likely place, and then to wait and watch and pray.

Quote Keble's hymn beginning—

"The livelong night we've toiled in vain;

But at thy gracious word

I will let down the net again:

Do thou thy will, O Lord."


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