Now when he had left speaking, he said to Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.
The passage is one of encouragement to-those who have been labouring in the cause of truth and righteousness, and whose success has not been according to their hope. We have a picture of -
I. FRUITLESS TOIL. "We have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing;" words that have not only been on the lips of the unsuccessful fisherman, but often enough on those of the weary Christian workman - the pastor, the evangelist, the teacher, the philanthropist, the missionary. Weeks, months, even years, may go by, and nothing or little may have resulted. Especially is this the case in missionary labour among savages, or where venerable systems of superstition prevail. The workman goes through all stages, of lessened hope, of surprise at non-success, of disappointment, of despondency, until he may get down very near to despair.
II. THE COMMAND TO CONTINUE. Under discouragement and apparent defeat there frequently enters the thought of abandonment. The worker says, "I will lay down my weapon; it is useless to proceed. I must have better soil, or it must have a more skilful hand." But when this thought is being entertained there comes a manifestation of the Master, who by some means and in some language, says, "Go, labour on: toil on and faint not." To the "fisher of men" he says, "Let down your nets for a draught." This command to continue may cause us to reflect upon:
1. Our Lord's own example; for he laboured on most diligently and patiently under heavy and sore discouragements.
2. The ample means placed at our disposal with which to work for Christ and men; the glorious fulness and fitness of the gospel of the grace of God.
3. The near presence and promised aid of the Holy Spirit.
4. The inestimable value of the souls we seek to save. But whencesoever suggested, the voice we hear is imperative, Divine, "Go, labour on.
III. THE SPIRIT AND ACT OF OBEDIENCE.
1. We may be indisposed to resume; we may feel, as Peter evidently did on this occasion, that there is nothing to be taken by our toil; that for all practical purposes we might as well leave the field.
2. But Christ's will is decisive. Against that there is no appeal. At thy word I will let down the net." This is the true spirit of obedience. To work for Christ under every possible encouragement is easy and simple enough; perhaps it may not take high rank in heaven so far as its spiritual greatness is concerned. To continue at our post under every discouragement, because we believe it is the will of our Lord that we should still strive and sow - that is the trying, the honourable, the acceptable thing. It may be remarked that:
3. Obedience to our Lord is not inconsistent with a wise change of method. Launch out "into the deep." They were to cast their net into the likeliest waters.
"Cast after cast, by force or guile,
All waters must be tried." (See Keble's hymn, "The livelong night we've toil'd in vain.") If one method does not succeed, we must try another. We must not ascribe to God a failure which is due to our own inefficiency. We must not ask and expect his blessing unless we are doing our best in his Name and in his cause.
IV. THE LARGE REWARD. "When they had this done," etc. Patient, obedient work wrought for Jesus Christ will certainly meet with its recompense. "Refrain thine eyes from tears, and thy voice from weeping, for thy work shall be rewarded." We may 'go forth weeping," but we shall doubtless "come again with rejoicing." The success may come:
1. After much labour and prayer and waiting.
2. In a way in which we did not expect it.
3. Only in part while we are here to rejoice in it; 'for often "one soweth and another reapeth." But sooner or later, in one form or another, here or hereafter, it will come; our net will "enclose a great multitude of fishes;" our hearts will be full, even to overflow, with joy and gratitude. - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.