HH Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them.–Matthew 4:21
But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle you.–1 Peter 5:10
It Is Distressing for It Misses What Is at Hand
But not only is it a vital loss. It is a peculiarly distressing loss, for this reason. The loss of the rent net entails the missing of riches that are at hand on every side. If one of our whalers were to be wrecked off Bequia, it would lose a harvest that was far away. There are a thousand miles between the whaling ground and the wild cliffs and stormy seas of Bequia. But when a net was rent upon the sea of Galilee, it meant not the loss of a far-distant harvest, it meant the loss of what was just at hand. There were the shoals of fish in the blue waters. They were in the very depths where the boats lay. They were not far away in other seas; they were where Peter was, and John and James. And that was the pity of the useless net, that all that was precious was so near at hand, and yet, for all the power to take it, might have been a thousand miles away. My brother and sister, the God of grace will mend your nets. He will give you the wealth that is lying in your hand. He will mend your nets, not for some distant fishing, but for the fishing where your bark is tonight. He will redeem for you your opportunities, and show you new meanings in your daily task, and give you the wealth that is on every hand although it may be you have never dreamed of it. Home will be different from what it has ever been; it will be so full of peace and happiness. Work will be different from what it has ever been, for it will all be done with new ideas. And on every hand, all unsuspected once, will be opportunities of doing good, and of helping someone who has need of help, although you never saw that need before. The God of grace will make you perfect. The God of grace will mend your nets for you. He will sweep into your poor barren life the riches that are there just for the taking. For the gladdest things are never far away, nor hidden in distant oceans, inaccessible, but they are here where you and I are living, and where eyes of love answer to our own.
The Work of Net Mending Requires Skill
And so we come to the work itself of net mending, and I am asking what kind of work is that? Well, in the first place, you will agree with me that it is a work that calls for perfect skill. Have you never been amazed at the deft fingers of some rough old fisherman upon the Clyde? Those hands of his, so brawny and so powerful–they could hoist any sail and manage any sheet. But the beautiful thing is that these very hands, all rough and seamed and hardened with the weather, will work as delicately as a woman’s hands in the fine work of mending nets. Were you and I to try it–what a failure! What a hopeless tangle we should make of things! We have our own bit of work that we can do, but the one thing we could never do is that. Yet he, with hands as deft as any woman’s, and with an eye that sees right through the tangle, makes his gear ready for the deeps. I have often thought that God’s hands were like those hands. They too are powerful and can grasp tremendously, when the wind is high and when the waves are raging. But they, too, with a delicacy infinite, and with a tenderness surpassing that of women, can mend the broken net upon life’s shore. The hand of Christ was mighty to command. When it was lifted up, the devils trembled. Yet that same hand, with what unerring skill did it ply its task upon the brokenhearted! It touched the weary, and they took heart again, and it was laid on the hopeless, and their hope was kindled, and it fell with a healing that was irresistible on lives that shrank from every other touch. That was the ministry of Christ on earth. That ever since has been His ministry. When wisdom has failed and learning been inoperative, Christ has succeeded and is succeeding still. For He knoweth our frame, and remembereth we are dust, and He is infinitely strong and gentle; and He alone, if we but trust Him, can mend the broken net and make it perfect.
It Also Requires Patience
But it is not only a work that calls for skill, it is a work that calls for patience also. There are tasks you can hurry through, and get them done, but you can never hurry the mending of the net. That is indeed a recognized distinction between a first-rate fisher and a bad one. The one, impatient, will patch his nets up anyhow, that he may have leisure for the public house. But the other makes it a leisurely affair, and settles down to it, and is deliberate–so deliberate sometimes that you and I are inclined to be irritated at his slowness. But the man is not working for our shallow praise. He is working with a higher thought than that. For he loves that net of his with a strange love that you and I could never understand. So with a leisureliness that is old-fashioned now, in this age of fast motion, he works at the mending through the summer morning, There is a patience that is born of cowardice, and there is a patience that is born of love. The one is the patience of a broken-spirited people who have been crushed for ages by some tyrant. But the other is the patience of our fishermen, and it is also the patience of our God, who through the length of days, as Newman sings, elaborates a people to His praise. If you and I are ever to be perfect, it will take infinite patience to achieve it. We are so backward–so ready to forget–such foolish scholars in the school of heaven. Blessed be God, that love which gave a Saviour will never weary in its appointed task, till that hath been made perfect which concerneth us.
It Involves Hope
And then, in closing, this work of net-mending, is it not a work that involves hope? There would be little use in mending any net if there were no hope of a harvest of the sea. Sometimes around the coasts of Scotland fish take what the fishermen call a flight. One year they are there in plenty, then unaccountably they disappear. And I know little towns upon our northern coasts where that has happened, and where hope was killed, and where the nets, so finely mended once, have hung upon the shore until they rotted. Always, when a net is mended, it means that there is hope for coming days. And always, when a life is mended, it means there is a harvest yet in store. And that is why, when a man yields up his will and gives himself into the hand of God, hopes that were quenched begin to shine again, and the heart thrills with what is yet to be. We have sinned, and we have sinned exceedingly. We have done our very best to spoil our lives. We have wasted time, and squandered the opportunity, and been unloving and utterly unworthy. Thanks are to God, in spite of all that, and of things that may be far darker than that, the broken net is going to be mended. He forgives us even to the uttermost. He is pledged to save us even to the uttermost. Deeper than our deepest need is the infinite depths of His compassion. It is in such a faith that we give Him our lives which are so rent and ragged, assured that His grace will be sufficient for us, and His strength made perfect in our weakness.