Strong Meat from the Stacks: The Art of Man-Fishing

Ministers are fishers by office; they are catchers of the souls of men, sent “to open the eyes of the blind, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God,” Acts 26:18. Preachers of the gospel are fishers; and their work, and that of fishers, agree in several things.
1. The design and work of fishers is to catch fish. This is the work that preachers of the gospel have taken in hand, even to endeavour to bring souls to Christ. Their design in their work should be the same. Tell me, O my soul, what is thy design in preaching? for what end dost thou lay the net in the water? is it to shew thy gifts, and to gain the applause of men? Oh! no. Lord, thou knowest my gifts are very small; and had I not some other thing than them to lean to, I had never gone to a pulpit. I confess, that, for as small as they are, the devil and my corruptions do sometimes present them to me in a magnifying glass, and so would blow me up with wind. But, Lord, thou knowest it is my work to repel these motions. An instance of this see in my Diary, Jan. 1. 1699. But of this see afterwards.
2. Their work is hard work; they are exposed to much cold in the water. So is the minister’s work.
3. A storm that will affright others, they will venture on, that they may not lose their fish. So should preachers of the gospel do.
4. 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. It is compared to a net wherewith fishers catch fish. . . .

Thomas Boston | The Whole Works of Thomas Boston: A Soliloquy on the Art of Man-Fishing, ed. Samuel M‘Millan, vol. 5 (Aberdeen: George and Robert King, 1849), 10–11.


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  1. My first expose of the Rev. Thomas Boston was Dr. Sinclair Ferguson’s The Whole Christ which led to my reading of the Marrow of Modern Divinity by Richard Fischer with notes by Rev. Thomas Boston. The rabbit trail we are led on with regard to the chains of redemption will eventually point to Jesus Christ.

  2. Shortly after his conversion John Colquhoun had walked all the way from Luss to Glasgow, a distance in all of about fifty miles, to buy a copy of Thomas Boston’s Fourfold State . This book had a moulding influence on his early Christian life. He came to esteem it next to his Bible. The influence of Boston’s teaching was later to permeate his ministry and writings. Thomas Boston’s remains had been laid to rest in the beautiful churchyard of Ettrick sixteen years before Colquhoun was born, but few if any of his followers bore such marks of his influence as the minister of South Leith. Although a minister of the Established Church, Colquhoun was regarded as one of the ablest exponents of “Marrow” theology. By an Act of Assembly on 20 May 1720 his Church had condemned the book,The Marrow of Modern Divinity, because it maintained that there was a universal call and offer of the Gospel to sinners. Defenders of the free offer-nicknamed “Marrowmen”-foremost of whom were Thomas Boston and the Erskine brothers, were forced to secede from the Church in 1722. Later, however, as we find in the case of John Colquhoun, upholders of “Marrow” teaching continued to exercise their ministry within the Establishment.

    John Colquhoun, Evangelical Repentance. Monergism Books. Kindle Edition.

  3. A few years ago I read the “Complete Works” of Boston. Never before nor since had I taken on such a project. Needless to say, that was a rewarding experience.

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