Man-fishing, Despair, and Pride
Benjamin Beddome was a Particular Baptist minister in England in the 1700’s. He is known also as an able hymn writer. In this post I would like to highlight one of his sermons on evangelism, or “man-fishing,” that was preached from Matthew 4:19, where Jesus said: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Beddome’s sermon, “The Nature and Authority of the Christian Ministry,” is principally aimed at the evangelistic endeavors of those called into full time ministry. However, the evangelistic principles can easily be applied to any christian.
In the sermon, Beddome makes several great points. However, I will highlight just two here: the office of a man-fisher should guard against both despair and pride.
- A man-fisher may defend against despair because: The dignity of the office is Great. Though the work of man-fishing may be tough, the catch slim and sparse, the scorching heat great, be not dismayed for the work is of utmost dignity, importance, and utility: “They transact the most important matters between God and man…What are all the honourable and lucrative offices upon the earth than this” (308). Indeed, though the trials be great, God may yet turn a man-fisher’s obstacles into glories:
Whatever difficulties, ill-treatment, or opposition, he may meet with, he must not thereby be deterred from the prosecution of his work, but persevere therein with indefatigable industry; he must neither repine at God, be angry with men, nor sink under the weight of his afflictions: “Approving ourselves,” says the great apostle of the Gentiles, “as the ministers of God in much patience.” Who knows but those who are now a crown of thorns may one day prove a crown of rejoicing; or that those who now reproach our ministry, may not hereafter be seals of it? (305)
- The role of a man-fisher ought guard against pride because: Men may not boast in their office: “they are but fishermen and under-fisherman” (308). Thus, as under-fisherman in the service of the Great One, they should “be helpful to one another, and it is common and becoming for fishermen to be. They should not envy and calumniate one another, but pray for one another, vindicate one another’s characters, bear one another’s burdens, strengthen one another’s hands, and encourage one another’s hearts, in the work of the Lord” (308).
To conclude, let those employed in the business of man-fishing remember:
They are fishers, and therefore they should not overrate them; fishers of men, and therefore they should not undervalue them. They should magnify their office, but not have their persons in admiration…Are thou, my friend, caught in the gospel-net, and hath God made use of thy minister as an instrument for that purpose? Value him but as an instrument; if thou make nothing of him, it will weaken his hands; if thou make too much of him, it will grieve his heart, and provoke God too. Esteem him highly, but let it be only for his work’s sake. Think honourable of him, and contribute cheerfully to his support. Let ministers also themselves learn from hence, where to go for continual influence and assistance. “I can do all things,” says the apostle, “through Christ, who strentheneth me.” This spiritual fisherman, whose labours were crowned with abundant success, did not sacrifice to his own net, or burn incense to his own drag; he knew the excellency of power was from Christ, that the excellency of praise might be to him also (309).