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THE SUCCESS OF ALL OUR LABOURS DEPENDS UPON GOD's BLESSING.
LUKE v. 4, 5, 6.
NOW WHEN HE HAD LEFT SPEAKING, HE SAID UNTO SIMON, LAUNCH OUT INTO THE DEEP, AND LET DOWN YOUR NETS FOR A DRAUGHT. AND SIMON ANSWERING SAID UNTO HIM, MASTER, WE HAVE TOILED ALL THE NIGHT, AND HAVE TAKEN NOTHING: NEVERTHELESS, AT THY WORD I WILL LET DOWN THE NET. AND WHEN THEY HAD THIS DONE, THEY INCLOSED A GREAT MULTITUDE OF FISHES, AND THEY FILLED BOTH THE SHIPS.
ERE is, good Christians, a very
people toiling and taking pains, and in an honest way, and yet without any success. This will teach us, that the success of all our labour and pains depends upon the will and pleasure of God. We have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing.
Then here is, in Simon Peter, an instance of great resignation to the will of God; no fretting at their bad success, but waiting with patience for God's good time. Here is also an example of a well-grounded faith in God's power to favour those that depend on him, even when they have the least hopes: At thy word I will let down the net. And this should teach us never to distrust the power or the goodness of God, but to live in a constant dependence upon him, even then when our honest endeavours do not succeed.
For observe what follows; When they had let down the net, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes; so many, as to fill both their ships; which no doubt did convince them, and should convince us, that man liveth not by bread alone, not by his own labour and industry only, (though these are necessary,) but by the word of God; that is, by the blessing of God upon his labours.
Lastly; here is an instance of great piety and gratitude for this great blessing. St. Peter falls down at Jesus' feet, saying, Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord! that is, I am verily unworthy of so great a favour; I acknowledge thine infinite power, and infinite goodness; for nothing less than infinite power and goodness
could work such a miracle.
But now, however plain and instructive these things are; and though in general every Christian owns, That without the blessing of God no man can prosper;-that except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it; that it is but lost labour to rise up early and take late rest, unless God be favourable unto their endeavours; that we are bound to depend upon God at all times; and to adore him, even when he withholds his blessings; and that it is our bounden duty to be thankful, when he bestows them upon us. Though this is owned by every Christian, yet there are but too many who do not consider what this obliges them to.
Christians do not, for instance, always consider, that if we depend upon God's blessing, then should we never fail to ask his blessing; then should we never undertake any business
which we have reason to believe he will not be pleased with; that we should never fret, when we are disappointed in our expectations; and that we should never make an ill use of God's favours, whenever he sends them.
That these things are not well considered, is too plain from the practice of the world; where it is seldom inquired,—Am I in the way of my duty? May I beg God's blessing upon this work or undertaking? Shall I injure no man by it? Shall I break none of God's laws, nor do dishonour to my Christian profession, if I succeed in it? A Christian, who dares not ask himself such questions as these, may depend upon it, that whether he succeed or not, he is in a bad way; he is doing that which he will one day repent of.
Now it being certain, that every body wishes that his labours may be blessed with good success, and that most people are impatient when they are disappointed in their expectations; it being certain also, that very many, who do succeed in their labours and wishes, are not always the better for it, and that it would have been a mercy to them if God had not answered them in their expectations; it will therefore be of use to us to inquire into these particulars:
1st. Why our expectations are not always answered, and our labours are not at all times blessed with good success? And,
2dly. What are the most likely means to prevail with God to bless all our honest endeavours?
Now, in the first place, though industry in our several callings be a duty, and a blessing is
promised to it in several places of holy scripture, and, generally speaking, it is attended with good success; yet this is always to be understood with this condition, that God sees it meet, that it will be for his glory, and for our greater good. For God may, and very often does, deny success to our endeavours, for very many reasons.
To make us sensible of our own weakness and inability to help ourselves without his blessing; and to let us see that neither he that planteth is any thing, nor he that watereth, (in comparison,) but God, who giveth the increase.
God often disappoints our expectations, to make us more sensible of our dependence upon him; to oblige us to go to him at all times for help; to hinder us from sacrificing to our own net, as if all our success were owing to ourselves; to increase our faith, and hope, and patience, and other virtues; that we may depend upon his word and promises, wait his time, which is always best, and cast all our cares on him who careth for us.
There is another plain reason why men do not often succeed, even in their most honest employments. They undertake and follow their business without ever asking God's blessing; they labour and take pains, as if that alone would do; and God, who knows that such as go about their business without his leave and blessing will, if they prosper, never thank him for their success; he therefore often blasts their labours, and makes all their endeavours fruitless.
This shews the great advantage and necessity of private and family prayer. For why should