These are Christ’s own words: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19)
So off went the Apostles.
But what was that likely to amount to, with these few men, who moreover understood Christ’s words to mean that it was they who had to be sacrificed in order to catch me? It is easy to see that if things had gone on that way, it would have amounted to nothing. That was God’s notion, perhaps a pretty one, but-as every practical man must surely admit-God is not practical. Or can one think of anything more topsy-turvy than that sort of fishing, where fishing means being sacrificed, so that it is not the fishermen who eat but the fish who eat the fisherman? And that is what they call fishing! It is almost like Hamlet’s madness when he says of Polonius that he is at supper, not where he eats, but where he is eaten.
Then man undertook God’s cause.
“Fishers of men! What Christ meant is something quite different from what these honest Apostles achieved, in defiance of all linguistic usage and linguistic analogy, for in no language is this what is understood by fishing. What He meant and intended was the origination of a new branch of business, i.e., man-fishery, preaching Christianity in such a way that it will amount to something to fish with this fishing company.
Attention now, and you will see that it does amount to something!
Yes, my word, it did amount to something! It amounted to “established Christendom” with millions and millions and millions of Christians.
It was quite simpy arranged. Just as one company is formed to speculate in the herring-fishery, another in cod-fishing, another in whaling, etc., so man-fishing was carried on by a stock company which guaranteed its members a dividend of such and such a per cent.
And what was the result of it? If you haven’t done it yet, don’t fail to take advantage of this opportunity to admire man! The result was that they caught a prodigious number of herring, or what I mean is men, Christians; and of course the company was in a brilliant financial condition. It proved indeed that even the most successful herring company did not make nearly so big a profit as did man-fishery. And one thing further, an extra profit, or at least a piquant[spicy] seasoning on top of the profit, namely, that no herring company is able to quote words of Scripture when they send boats out for the catch.
But man-fishery is a godly enterprise, the stockholders in this company can appeal to words of Scripture for themselves, for Christ says “I will make you fishers of men.” They can tranqually go to the meet the Judgment, saying, “We have accomplished Thy word, we have fished for men.”