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XXVI

THE OLD TACKLE AND THE NEW PRESENCE

“Launch out into the deep.”—Luke v. 4.

THE disciples had just washed their nets after a fruitless night. The labour of washing nets is light when we have had. a splendid haul; but washing the nets when we have not caught any fish is a fearfully wearying task. Walking the long street when we have plenty of remunerative work is one thing; walking the same street when we are looking for work takes the very spring out of body and soul. Labour, infused with a spirit of disappointment and depression, is always burdensome toil. And it was after they had been engaged in this sort of cheerless work that the Master came upon His disciples. They were washing ineffective nets! And Jesus said unto Simon, “Launch out into the deep!” What, after the fruitless night, after toiling for nothing? The same thing over again? 100No, it is not the old thing over again. It is certainly the old tackle, the old nets, and perhaps the old methods; but it is the old equipment with a new Presence, the immediate Presence of the Lord. “And they inclosed a great multitude of fishes.”

Have we not had similar happenings in our own experience? In much of our service we have been very busy, but no business has been done. We have had all needful equipment, and we have had the right sort of nets, but we have caught nothing. The organisation was seemingly perfect, but there was nothing to show for the work. Perhaps we were out on the waters without Jesus. We had forgotten nothing except the Lord, and when we have forgotten Him we might as well have left everything behind. Suppose we take the old tackle and the neglected Presence! The old nets are all right; only let us cast them at the command of the immediate Lord, and we shall have miraculous revelations of power and grace.

And is there not some counsel here for theological students? One of the most perilous periods in a minister’s life is the preparatory season when he has nothing to 101do but study theology. It is possible to go out on that fine quest without the Lord. They are noble waters to fish in, but we may catch little or nothing. At any rate, we may go through the seminary and gain no pearls of great price. In this preparatory service of getting ready for service, Christ must be in the boat or nothing will come of it. It must surely be a wonderful thing to study theology in the personal companionship of the Lord! Such fishing in those deep waters must haul in vital treasure.

And so it is with us preachers. We sometimes go on our great journeys without Christ, and we have disappointment and tiring endings. The tackle is all right: we throw the nets all right, but the vital Presence is missing, and we pitiably fail. “With Christ in the vessel I’ll smile at the storm.” We shall do much more than that! We shall do great work in the stormy waters, for hath He not said, “I will make you fishers of men”?

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