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

Chapter 3: Ministers are fishers by office

“The design and work of fishers is to catch fish.” (31)

“Fishers catch fish with a net. So preachers have a net to catch souls with. This is the everlasting gospel, the word of peace and reconciliation, wherewith sinners are caught.” (32)

“…as fish sometimes come near and touch the net, and yet draw back; so many souls are somewhat affected at the hearing of the gospel, and yet remain in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity.” (33)

“…if the fish do come, they are caught.”

“…all that are taken in the net do make some struggling to get free. Even so every one whom the Lord deals with by his word and Spirit, make some kind of resistance before they are thoroughly caught.” (33)

“…in a net are many meshes in which the fish are caught. …This then is gospel-preaching, thus to spread out the net of the gospel, wherein are so many meshes of various invitations and promises, to which if the fish do come, they are caught.” (34)

“So lest invitations and promises of the gospel be slighted, there must be used some legal terrors and law-threatenings to drive the fish into the net.” (34)

“There are two pools wherein the net should be set; in the public assemblies of the Lord’s people. …The second place to set a net is in private conferences.” (35)

“Fishers may toil long, and yet catch nothing; but they do not therefore lay aside their work. So may preachers preach long, and yet not catch any soul (Isaiah 49:4, and 53:1) but they are not to give up for all that.” (35)

“But I said, “I have labored in vain;
    I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity;
yet surely my right is with the Lord,
    and my recompense with my God.” – Isaiah 49:4


“The knowledge that I have of Christ makes me trust in him in some measure (Ps. 9:10), though alas! My evil heart of unbelief creates a great deal of difficulty in that to me.” (41)

“Many times I have gone to prayer very dead, and have come away with life…”

“Many times I have gone to prayer very dead, and have come away with life; I have gone with a drooping and fainting heart, and come away rejoicing; with an heart closed, and have come away with an heart enlarged, and have felt enlargement both as to words and affections; and this hath made me both thankful and more vile in mine own eyes, that God should have done so with the like of me (1 Chronicles 29:14).” (41)

If my heart deceive me not, I have found love to Christ within this month more lively and vigorous than before, my soul more affected with his absence from ordinances than ever.” (46)

“Following Christ supposes sense of weakness, and the need of a guide.”

“Consider that though thou hadst gifts like an angel, yet thou canst not convert a soul unless Christ be with thee to do the work.” (48)

“…follow not the rules of carnal wisdom. Its language will always be, Master, spare thyself;” (49)

Chapter 5: Wherein is Christ to be followed?

“…there is a twofold call, an extraordinary and an ordinary call.” (56)

“There are these four things in an ordinary call which do make it up.

  1. Knowledge of the doctrine of the Christian religion above that of ordinary professors…
  2. Aptness to teach, some dexterity of communicating unto others that knowledge…
  3. A will some way ready to take on the work of preaching the gospel…
  4. The call of the church…” (56-57)

“Consider that what thou hast is a talent given thee by thy great Master to improve till he comes again.” (58)

“How can it be thought that God will suffer to go unpunished such a preacher as he has given a talent of gifts to, if he shall use these merely to gain a stipend or applause to himself therewith, not respecting the glory of his Master?” (59)

“…the applause of the world is worth nothing. …A vain empty puff of wind.” (59)

“Let thy sermons be sermons of many prayers.”

“Lord, rather strike me dumb, than suffer me to preach unconcerned for the good of souls; for if dumb, I should murder neither my own soul, nor those of others.” (63-64)

“If thou believe that they must depart into everlasting fire, thy heart will not be so frozen as to be unconcerned for them.” (64)

“Consider the many souls that go out of time into eternity, during the time that they want a shepherd.” (66)

“Let thy sermons be sermons of many prayers. Well doth prayer become every Christian, but much more a preacher of the gospel.” (70)

“How wilt thou get a word from God, I thou do not seek it; and how canst thou seek it but by earnest prayer? …But O it is a miserable preaching where the preacher can say, Thus say I to you, but no more; and cannot say, Thus saith the Lord.” (70)

“All, especially preachers, are to follow Christ in the contempt of the world.”

“Beware, O my soul, that thou close with no call upon the account of stipend. …Woe is me if a stipend should be that which should engage me to a place. I would shew myself a wretched creature. For surely, this is direct simony; selling the gift of God for money.” (77)

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