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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

Luke 5

 

 

Verses 8-11

DISCOURSE: 1490

THE DRAUGHT OF FISHES

Luke 5:8-11. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken: and so was also James and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not: from henceforth thou shalt catch men. And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.

OUR blessed Lord from the time that he entered on his ministry, prosecuted it without intermission, preaching in the synagogues, and wherever the people were assembled to hear him. On the occasion before us, that he might not be obstructed by the populace that pressed upon him, he got into a small fishing vessel; and having pushed out a little from the land, addressed them to the greater advantage. The discourse he delivered is not recorded: but the miracle which he wrought immediately after it, is deserving of particular notice, and that in different points of view;

I. As perverted by Peter—

Peter, and his partners James and John, had been engaged in fishing all the preceding night, and had caught nothing: but at our Lord’s command they let down their nets, and inclosed such a multitude of fishes, that their nets began to break, and their ships, when filled with them, were almost ready to sink. Peter, overwhelmed with astonishment, saw that this was none other than the hand of God; and prostrating himself before the knees of Jesus, exclaimed, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”

Now this was well meant on the part of Peter—

[He had a consciousness that he was “a sinful man;” and feared therefore that some heavy judgment would befall him in the presence of a holy God. Ever since Adam fled from the presence of Jehovah in Paradise, the presence of God has been rather a ground of fear and dread, than of hope and joy to fallen man. Manoah exclaimed to his wife, “We shall surely die, for we have seen God [Note: Judges 13:22.]. This kind of apprehension it was which arose in the mind of Peter, and dictated his unwise request. If the circumstance of his being a sinful man was a reason why the Lord Jesus should depart from him, what person is there on the face of the whole earth that can desire his presence? — — —]

But his request should have been the very reverse of what it was—

[Was he a sinful man? he needed so much the more to receive instruction from the Saviour respecting the way which God had provided for his deliverance. He should rather have said, therefore, ‘Lord, I am a sinful man, and all my hope is in thee alone; for, “to whom else can I go either for mercy or for grace to help me in the time of need?” Thou alone canst bear with me; thou alone canst save me. My efforts to catch fish shew me how little I can do of myself even in the way of my trade: and how much less can I do in the things that relate to heaven! O, then, I entreat thee, never, never leave me; never, never forsake me; but be with me as my Guide and Comforter, my Righteousness and Strength, even unto the end. Without thee I can do nothing; but by strength communicated from thee I shall be able to do all things.’ Thus, instead of making his sinfulness a reason for entreating the Lord to depart from him, he should rather have urged it as a plea for mercy, saying, with David, “O Lord, for thy name’s sake, pardon mine iniquity; for it is great [Note: Psalms 25:11.].” This would have honoured the Saviour, whose mercy is equal to his power; and any other use of the miracle was, in fact, an ignorant and unbecoming perversion of it.]

The true intent of the miracle will appear, whilst we view it,

II. As explained by our blessed Lord—

He dissipates the fear of his trembling Disciple, saying to him, “Fear not;” and for his comfort assures him, that the miracle was designed as an emblem,

1. Of the effects which should be produced by the Gospel—

[The whole world is like the ocean, where sinners range without controul: and the Gospel is as a net, which the servants of the Lord spread in order to gather them for him, not that they may be destroyed, but that they may live under his protection, and be regarded by him as his peculiar possession. The prophets in their endeavours succeeded to a very limited extent: but the time was fast approaching, when the whole world, both of Jews and Gentiles, should be drawn to the Lord by the influence of his grace, and all nations be brought to the obedience of faith.” True indeed, both bad and good are gathered by the Gospel now, and are brought to an outward profession of the faith; a separation of the one from the other being left to be made at the last day [Note: Matthew 13:47-50.]: but the scope of the miracle before us is rather to shew the saving effects of the Gospel, without adverting to any minute particulars respecting those in whom a difference shall be found.

And here let me remind you, that the emblem is now realized amongst you at this very hour. Whilst I preach to you the glad tidings of salvation through a crucified Redeemer, I am, in fact, spreading the Gospel net, that I may draw you from the midst of a wide and sinful world, and present you to God as a peculiar people, zealous of good works — — —]

2. Of the office to which Peter himself was now definitively called—

[Peter and his partners had followed our Lord before, but not so as to remain with him as his stated attendants. But now they were to abandon their worldly calling altogether, and to become exclusively the servants of his household: they were henceforth to be by profession, as it were, “fishers of men [Note: Matthew 4:19.].” In this office Peter was to be pre-eminently distinguished: nor was either his apprehended sinfulness or his want of education to be any obstacle to his success. Accordingly the promise now given him was very fully accomplished in the first sermon which he preached on the day of Pentecost, when three thousand were converted to the faith of Christ. It was also again fulfilled, when he was made the honoured instrument of first opening the kingdom of heaven to the Gentile world, by the conversion of Cornelius and his company. From that time to the present hour the Gospel net has been cast with different measures of success in all the quarters of the globe: and we are looking for a period, not far distant now, when Pentecostal scenes shall be renewed in every place, and “all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”]

That the miracle may produce its full effects, let us contemplate it,

III. As to be improved by us—

See what it wrought on Peter and James and John: this is the effect it is to produce on us. We should all of us without exception be led by it,

1. To receive the Lord Jesus as the true Messiah—

[To his miracles the Lord Jesus himself appealed as demonstrative seals of his Divine commission. And what could convey clearer evidence of it than the miracle before us? For, whilst it did not admit of a possibility of collusion, it shewed how unbounded was the power of the Lord over the whole creation, and consequently how “competent he was to save to the uttermost all that should come unto God by him.” Whilst this proved that he was the true Messiah, it proved to our comfort, that all which he has undertaken for us shall surely be accomplished — — —]

2. To trust in him under all circumstances, however discouraging—

[Peter felt discouraged on account of his sinfulness; and he had seen his incompetency to effect any thing by any power of his own. Now the same grounds of discouragement often exist in reference to ourselves, whether as objects of the Lord’s mercy, or as agents in his service. But behold what the Lord effected both for him and by him in an instant of time: and can he not accomplish either for us, or by us, whatever shall be deemed conducive to his glory? Yes, he can, and will: our iniquities, if only we trust in him, shall be forgiven, and our wants of every kind shall be supplied: and through the communications of his grace we shall be made successful in all our efforts, whether to serve him ourselves, or to bring others to the enjoyment of his salvation — — —]

3. To serve and honour him with our whole hearts—

[These fishermen left their all to follow him. And this is what we also must do, in heart at least, and in act also, if fidelity to him require it: nor on any other terms than these will he acknowledge us as his disciples [Note: Luke 14:33.]. And is he not worthy of being served thus? Did his Disciples ever find cause for regret that they had forsaken all for him [Note: Luke 22:35.]? No: nor shall we. The Apostle Paul counted all things but loss for Christ: and thus must we hold in utter contempt every thing that may interfere with our duty to him, or impede us in his service — — — I call on all of you then to make this improvement of the miracle before us. For those who minister in holy things the duty is indispensable — — — nor is it less so for those who are ministered unto — — — To follow him fully is the sure way to enjoy his presence both in this world and in the world to come.]


Verses 27-29

DISCOURSE: 1491

THE CALL OF MATTHEW

Luke 5:27-29. After these things, he went forth, and saw a publican named Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he said unto him, Follow me. And he left all, rose up, and followed him. And Levi made him a great feast in his own house.

IF we notice particularly who they are whom God has more especially selected as objects of his grace and mercy, we shall be struck with this plain and obvious truth, that “God’s thoughts are not as our thoughts, nor his ways as our ways.” Had it been left to man to dispense the blessings of salvation, he would have imparted them to those whose previous qualifications and endowments seemed to have marked them out for this high distinction. But God has rather sought, by the preference which he has shewn, to magnify his own grace and mercy.

The person here chosen to the apostleship was a “publican.” Now the publicans were characters universally hated by the Jewish nation, because, as tax-gatherers, they aided the Roman government, by whom they were appointed, and whose interests they served. The persons who executed this office, knowing that, independently of their own character, they were hated and despised by their brethren, were intent only on advancing their own interests, and were guilty of exacting in many cases more than they were authorized to require; and thus by their oppressive conduct they rendered the office, and all who held it, objects of unqualified reprobation. Yet of these persons did God select many, in preference to the Scribes and Pharisees, to participate the benefits of the Redeemer’s kingdom; as our blessed Lord himself says, “The publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you [Note: Matthew 21:31.].” The person whom our text mentions as executing that office, is here called “Levi:” but in his own account which he gives of himself, he calls himself by the name of Matthew [Note: Matthew 9:9.]. Of his conversion we are informed in the words before us. He was “sitting at the receipt of custom,” in the regular discharge of his duty, and, without any previous intimation or instruction, was called by our blessed Lord to a constant attendance upon him, as one of his Disciples. This event will be found deeply interesting to us all, whilst we consider,

I. His unexpected call—

In this there was doubtless somewhat peculiar. He was called to an office which was limited to twelve, and which now no longer exists. But still, excepting that peculiarity,

1. The same call is given to every one of us—

[To us the Gospel speaks in the same authoritative tone as that in which Jesus addressed this busy publican: and in it the Lord Jesus Christ himself says to every one of us, “Follow me.” ‘Believe in me as the true Messiah: receive me as sent of God to be the Saviour of your soul: give yourself up to me as your Lord and Master: obey my commandments, and tread in my steps. Let no present considerations operate to retard your compliance with my will: come, leave all, and follow me.’ In all this there is nothing peculiar: it is the duty of every living man: the command is issued equally to all: “If any man will be my Disciple, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” — — —]

2. Wherever it is effectual, it is equally the gift of sovereign grace—

[To Matthew, the call came unexpected and unsought: and so it does in reality wherever it takes effect. The precise time of its operation may not, in all cases, be so distinctly seen, nor its power so deeply felt; but in all cases must its efficacy be traced to God, who, of his own good pleasure, dispenses his gifts to whomsoever he will. There may in some cases be a long season of gradual illumination, even as the early dawn, whose transition from darkness to light is imperceptibly progressive: but still, if we trace it to the first thought and first desire originating in the soul, we must without hesitation ascribe it altogether to God, who “gives both to will and to do of his good pleasure [Note: Philippians 2:13.]” Of all true converts it must be said, “Ye have not chosen me; but I have chosen you [Note: John 15:16.]:” “You loved me, because I first loved you [Note: 1 John 4:19.]:” You did not “know me, till after you were known of me [Note: Galatians 4:9.];” or “apprehend me, till you had first been apprehended by me [Note: Philippians 3:12.].” In reference to you all it must in this sense be said, no less than of St. Matthew himself, “I am found of them that sought me not; I am made manifest to them that asked not after me [Note: Isaiah 65:1.].” Whatever “holy desires we feel, or good counsels we follow, or just works we perform,” they all, as our Liturgy informs us, “proceed from God;” who, as our Tenth Article states it, “by his grace in Christ Jesus prevents us, that we may have a good will, and worketh with us when we have that good will.”]

That this call of Matthew may have its due effect upon us, let us consider,

II. His exemplary obedience to it—

As in the call itself, so in his obedience to it, there was somewhat peculiar. The office which he had held, he instantly resigned, (committing it no doubt to proper hands,) and became from that moment a stated attendant on our Lord. In this respect it is not necessary that we should follow him, unless the occupation in which we have been engaged be criminal. We are rather to “abide in the calling in which we have been called:” yea, “therein to abide with God [Note: 1 Corinthians 7:20; 1 Corinthians 7:24.].” But in other respects our obedience must resemble his. It should be,

1. Prompt—

[There was in him no “conferring with flesh and blood.” Elisha, when Elijah’s mantle was cast upon him [Note: 1 Kings 19:19-21.], felt an irresistible attraction, and obeyed without hesitation or delay. So it should be with us. Does the Lord Jesus by his word and Spirit command us to follow him? We should not wait for a second call: we should so act, that we may be able to say with David, “I made haste and delayed not to keep thy commandments [Note: Psalms 119:60.]”]

2. Self-denying—

[Lucrative as his situation was, Matthew resigned it without reluctance, determining that nothing should obstruct him in the path of his duty. And should not we also despise all earthly gains or prospects in comparison of Christ? Should we not be ready to shake them from us, as we would “the thick clay from our feet” when we were about to run a race [Note: Habakkuk 2:6.]? — — — Yes verily, we should be ready to “leave all to follow Christ;” and account not even life itself dear to us, if only we may honour him by the sacrifice of it [Note: Acts 20:24. Philippians 1:20.] — — —]

3. Grateful—

[Immediately Matthew made a great feast for his divine Master, and invited to it a number of his former friends, who were still prosecuting the line which he had just relinquished. In this he sought to honour his Lord in the face of the whole world, and to advance the interests of His kingdom, by bringing others to the knowledge of him. This, under any circumstances, was a just expression of his gratitude for the mercy vouchsafed unto him. And it shews us how we also should use our influence, when once we have become followers of our blessed Lord. We should not only not be ashamed to confess him openly before men, but should exert ourselves to bring our friends and relatives to an acquaintance with him, that they also may be made monuments of his grace, and become partakers of the blessings which we enjoy. Our very feasts should now be ordered with that view, and be made conducive to that end. Nor should we make any account of either expense or trouble, if we may but testify in the smallest degree our love to Christ, or advance the ends for which he came into the world — — —]

4. Determined—

[We never read of his expressing a wish afterwards to return to his former employment, or of his regretting that he had made so great a sacrifice. Nor should we ever “look back, after having once put our hand to the plough [Note: Luke 9:62.].” The patriarchs, who had left their country and their kindred at the call of God, “had opportunities enough to return, if they had been so minded;” but they “looked forward to a heavenly country [Note: Hebrews 11:15-16.],” and to their dying hour pursued their pilgrimage towards it with unabated ardour. And we also must go forward in a sweet and assured hope, that in the place of all that we resign or lose for Christ, we shall have “a better and an enduring substance in heaven [Note: Hebrews 10:34.]” — — —]

Reflect,

1. How strongly does this example reprove the whole Christian world!

[We are all called as he was, and have been called ten thousand times, to serve and follow Christ. But on whom amongst us have the same effects been produced? Who has not had many excuses to offer for declining to accept the invitations of his Lord? — — — I may even say, who, if his own friend or relative had acted as Matthew did, would not have been ready to cry out against him as a weak deluded enthusiast? But this call must be obeyed, if ever we would be acknowledged by our Lord as his obedient people. I do not say that we must actually renounce all our worldly interests for Christ; but this I say, that we must be ready to renounce them, if they interfere with our duty to him, or if by the surrender of them. we may more advance his glory in the world. On no other terms will he receive us: if we be not willing to “lose father and mother, and houses and lands, yea, and our own lives also for his sake, we cannot be his disciples.” O that his power might now go forth amongst you, as it did in the case before us; and that all your “souls may be subdued to the obedience of faith!”]

2. How great is the benefit of obeying the Gospel call!

[Matthew in appearance was degraded and impoverished; but he was made an eminent servant of Christ, and a blessed instrument of diffusing the knowledge of him through the whole world. (Of all the Evangelists, not one marks so fully the Messiahship of Jesus, and the accomplishment of prophecy in him, as he.) And what is his condition now? Has he not far better treasures than ever he possessed on earth? Know ye then, that you also may appear to suffer loss by devoting yourselves to Christ; but if you have the honour of being his servants, his friends, his heirs; if he acknowledge you as members of his own body, yea, as his spouse, who shall participate all his glory, and have the everlasting fruition of his love; you have made a good exchange. Rejoice then in your high privileges; and be thankful to Him, by whose almighty power alone you have been made willing to accept them; and let your whole lives be henceforth consecrated, as Matthew’s was, to his service: so shall you in your place be his witnesses to all around you; and ere long be joined to that blessed society, where every loss shall be compensated with a proportionable weight of glory.]


Verses 36-38

DISCOURSE: 1492

THE NEW WINE AND OLD BOTTLES

Luke 5:36-38. And he spake also a parable unto them; No man putteth a piece of new garment upon an old; if otherwise, then both the new maketh a rent, and the piece that was taken out of the new agreeth not with the old. And no man putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish. But new wine must be put into new bottles; and both are preserved.

THE cavils of objectors have been frequently overruled for the benefit of the church. They have given rise to many of our Lord’s most instructive discourses, and thereby furnished us with a much clearer and more extensive knowledge of our duty. Thrice in this chapter do we see our Lord called upon to answer the objections that were either secretly entertained, or openly expressed, against him. His forgiving of sins, and associating with sinners, had given offence; but he vindicated his conduct with respect to both, and has afforded us herein a rich discovery of his power and grace. In the context he was condemned for leaving his Disciples so much at liberty respecting the duty of fasting. In reply to the queries put to him on this subject, he delivered the parables which we have now read: and in which are contained,

I. A virtual acknowledgment of the duty of fasting—

[This duty, together with the attendant offices of humiliation and prayer, our Lord had forborne to insist upon so much as John had done: and for that he was blamed by the self-righteous Pharisees. But in his answer to the question put to him, he does not say, that the children of the bride-chamber were never to fast, but only not during the present season, “whilst the Bridegroom was yet with them.” Nor in the parables before us does he say, that the old garment should not be mended, nor the wine put into vessels at all, but only that discretion was to be exercised with respect to the manner of doing these things. These intimations alone were sufficient to establish the propriety of practising the duty there spoken of: but they are enforced by many other passages of Holy Writ; and especially by the admonitions given by our Lord himself respecting our conduct when we fast [Note: Matthew 6:16-18.]. Indeed, in our text itself he says, that after his removal from them “they should fast [Note: ver. 35.].”]

There being no doubt amongst us on this point, I proceed more particularly to notice that which is in fact the substance of both the parables, namely,

II. A special direction for the performance of this duty—

In inculcating or practising this solemn duty, we are here taught to pay the strictest attention to the principal circumstances relating to it, such as the time, the manner, the end.

1. The time—

[It is not every season that is suited to this duty. At a wedding-feast, for instance, it would be absurd to fast. But on occasion of any great calamity, whether public or private, a fit opportunity would offer itself. In a season of war, famine, pestilence, the deepest humiliation becomes us. So under the pressure of any personal affliction, and especially in a time of spiritual distress, when corruptions are strong, and temptations powerful, and self-reproach is deep, and God has hidden his face from us, it becomes us to betake ourselves to fasting and prayer. Respecting an unclean devil, which the Disciples were not able to eject, our Lord said, “This kind goeth not out but by fasting and prayer [Note: Matthew 17:21.].” And so we find on many occasions our lusts too strong for us; and therefore too strong, because we use not these means of obtaining the victory over them. There are also in domestic life seasons when husband and wife may profitably separate from each other for a short time in order to address themselves more effectually to the discharge of this high duty of fasting and prayer [Note: 1 Corinthians 5:7.]. And thus has Solomon informed us; “There is a time to weep, as well as a time to laugh, and a time to mourn as well as a time to dance [Note: Ecclesiastes 3:4.]:” and these seasons we ought more particularly to select, even “when the Bridegroom is taken away from us.”]

2. The manner—

[Here also discretion is greatly wanted. To carry our austerities so far as to injure our own health, is highly inexpedient. Such conduct, instead of fitting us the more for the Lord’s service, would rather incapacitate us for it, and defeat the very object we had in view. The putting of new wine into leathern bottles that were weakened by use and age, would lead to the destruction of the bottles themselves, and of the wine committed to them. And so would indiscreet austerities operate on us, and on all around us. For, what would the world at large think of a religion that prescribed such things? Would they not cry out against it as a gloomy superstition? And what would an inquiring soul be ready to feel? Would he not be discouraged and disheartened, and, through a distaste for such self-tormenting exercises, be ready to relinquish it altogether? We must take care then, that in our mode of inculcating these self-denying duties, we do not give occasion for such unfounded sentiments, and such erroneous conceptions.]

3. The end—

[The Pharisees put these services in the place of true religion, not knowing that they are only as means to an end, and as the scaffolding to the edifice which it is employed to construct. Hence arose their bitter complaint against our Lord. But we must ever remember, that, to whatever extent we multiplied these services, they never could stand in the place of repentance, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the great error of the Church of Rome: they place penance, that is, a round of observances prescribed by man, in the place of repentance as enjoined by God, and in the place also of the Lord Jesus Christ, “whose blood alone can cleanse from all sin.” But I charge you before God to be on your guard against this, since it will “make void the whole Gospel of Christ,” and cause “the blood of Christ to have been shed in vain.” As a discipline for the mortifying of the flesh and the quickening of the spirit, fasting is good: but as a substitute for an entire renovation of soul, and for a simple faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, it is a broken reed, which will pierce even unto death the hand that rests upon it.]

Learn then from this parable,

1. To judge with candour—

[The Pharisees through their pride and ignorance were led to condemn our Lord. And thus we also are apt to judge our unoffending brethren. We have a standard of our own; and by that we try all other persons: and, if they exceed that standard we condemn them as enthusiasts; or, if they fall short of it, we account them but lukewarm formalists. But the same standard cannot be applied to all. There are ten thousand circumstances which may not only justify a difference of conduct in pious persons, but may actually produce it. The Disciples of John, we readily acknowledge, did right in fasting oft: but did the Disciples of our Lord act wrong because they did not fast at all? No: the circumstances of the two parties were widely different, as our Lord informed them; and therefore both were right. So it may be with many of our brethren, who differ from us in relation to this matter: and it does not become us to judge them. “To their own Master they stand or fall:” and it is our part to commit them altogether unto God, who judgeth righteously, and who alone can estimate every thing which is to be taken into the account.]

2. To give advice with caution—

[We ought to bear in mind the different situations and capacities of men, and not to be requiring of novices what is suited only to the strength of an established saint. Our blessed Lord spake not all he knew, but only what his hearers were able to receive; and even from his own Disciples he kept back much which they were not able at that time to comprehend [Note: John 16:12.]. So St. Paul “fed his Corinthian converts with milk and not with meat,” because they were yet in too carnal a state to enter into the deeper subjects which he would gladly have brought before them [Note: 1 Corinthians 3:2.]. Thus then should we also do. We should “feed babes with milk, and minister meat to those only who by reason of a more adult age are able to digest it [Note: Hebrews 5:12-14.].” Nor let any one think this unbecoming a minister of God. It is the true and proper office of love. Jacob would not drive his lambs too far, lest in one day he should kill them all [Note: Genesis 33:13.]. And our blessed Lord “carried the lambs in his bosom, and gently led those that were with young.” And thus must we also exercise the same tender care in administering to the lambs of our flock, lest by undue rigour we “break the bruised reed,” or by overwhelming exactions we “quench the smoking flax.”]

3. To press forward with holy unremitting diligence—

[It was of his holy Apostles that our Lord said, that in the days after his removal from them they should fast. Who then are we that we should think ourselves at liberty to remit our exertions in our heavenly course? Never will there be in this life a moment when our vigilance can be dispensed with, or our most self-denying labours be relaxed. Nor, if St. Paul was “in fastings often,” should we account that holy discipline unnecessary for us. On the contrary, we should by all possible means “keep our body under and bring it into subjection, lest by any means, after having ministered to others, we ourselves should be deemed unworthy the approbation of our God [Note: 1 Corinthians 9:27.].]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Luke 5:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/luke-5.html. 1832.

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