Thomas Boston (1676-1732): “The Art of Man-Fishing” (Excerpts)

FROM THE INTRODUCTION BY DR. J. I. PACKER

Boston…: “I think I have Spirit; that is, that I have life… from the following grounds.. I have light that before I did not have… This light lets me see my heart-sins… and is still discovering the baseness of my heart to me….It makes me see Christ as precious… makes

Thomas Boston

me trust in him… I lean on him for help in his own work… in temptations and trials, I endeavor to lift up my soul to him. I feel help… from the Spirit….Many times I have gone to prayer very dead, and have come away with life… I find a threefold flame, though weak, in my heart. (a) A flame of love to Christ… I have a love

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“I love those in whom the image of God appears…”
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to his truths… I love the promises… I love his threatenings as most just… I love those in whom the image of God appears… I love his work… I love his ordinances… I love his glory, that he should be glorified, come of me what will. (b) I find in my heart a flame of desires toward the righteousness of Christ… My soul… acquiesces in justification by an imputed righteousness… Sometimes my soul longs… to be dissolved, and to be with Christ… (c) I find in my heart some heat of zeal for God… I move forward towards heaven… I am more acquainted with Christ and his ways than before… there is a growth of love in me… I can, I think, trust God more now than before… my soul is habitually more watchful than before. Nor do I dare give such liberty to my heart as sometimes I gave… I see growth of contempt of the world. And this, blessed be God, is on the increase in me (pp. 50ff.).’” (12)

Evangelism was not a word that Boston knew, but evangelism, in the sense of awakening the unconverted to their need of Christ, leading them to faith and repentance,.. – Dr. J.I. Packer (13)

“…the conversion process from start to finish would take months, just as the gestation and final birth of a human baby does. …the concept of conversion as typically a short, sharp affair that can be precisely narrated and dated has become normative for evangelical minds.

“…‘let this be your design, to seek to recover lost sheep… to get some converted…’” (15)

“…‘They are well that die at Christ’s work.’ These are the last words of the book.” (15)

PART ONE: THE PROMISE AND THE DUTY

Chapter 1: How does Christ make men ‘fishers of men’?

“O my soul, then see that gifts will not do the business. A man may preach as an angel, and yet be useless. If Christ withdraw his presence, all will be to no purpose.” (24)

“…treasure in earthen vessels…”

“Has not God put this treasure in earthen vessels, that the power might be seen to be of him?” (24)

“When thou studiest, send up ejaculations to thy Lord for it. When thou writest a sermon, or dost ruminate on it, then say to God, ‘Lord, this will be altogether weak without thy power accompanying it.’” (25)

“Then seest thou not here what is the reason thou toilest so long, and catchest nothing? The power comes not along.” (25)

“Then, O my soul, despair not of the conversion of any, be they ever so profligate. For it is the power of the Spirit that drives any person into the net; and this cannot be resisted.” (25)

“Publicans and harlots shall enter the kingdom of heaven before self-righteous Pharisees.” (26)


Chapter 2:
But why are unconverted men compared to fish in the water?

“…sin is the proper and natural element for an unconverted soul. …It is in sin that the only delight of natural men is; but in holiness they have no more delight than a fish upon the earth, or a sow in a palace.” (27)

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“Oh, how careful are natural men to keep all quiet, that there may be nothing to disturb them in their rest in sin!”
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“Fish love deep places best, where there is least noise. Oh, how careful are natural men to keep all quiet, that there may be nothing to disturb them in their rest in sin!” (29)

“As fish are altogether unprofitable as long as they are in the water, so are wicked men in their natural estate.” (29)

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